Why Should You Sort Your Recycling?
You take the extra time in your day to make the trip to the recycling bin. You empty out your plastic bottles before taking them to this designated space, going the extra mile to guarantee that they don’t end up spending the next hundred years in a landfill. Why should you of all people spend even more of your day sorting your recyclables beyond this? You’ve got a life of your own. To add more steps to the recycling process through sorting means that these items need individual boxes. That doesn’t even include all the extra work on your part to get them where they need to go.
But it’s now time to consider the importance of sorting your recycling and the long term effects—taking it even further than you’d thought you ever would. Now it’s time to become the think green superhero that you have the capabilities to be.
The plastic blue bins have become a savior for everyone who wanted to do their part in a small way but weren’t sure how. You collect paper, plastic, cardboard, glass and so much more in these receptacles (maybe too much). But there’s a chance that you’re contributing to these items ending up in the landfill.
Don’t be a person who lets your carelessness lead to more waste piling up in the junkyards throughout your town.
Landfills: a Necessary Evil
Sorting your recycling is the key to helping reduce waste, so why haven’t we heard more about it yet? The junk or contaminated recycled goods will either spend the rest of their existence in the junkyard, or they will be incinerated. Either way, the waste does just that—it goes to waste. It’s detrimental to the state of our big, green and blue planet. That doesn’t even begin to cover what taking those valuable resources away will do to our economy.
Since the inception of our country, our consumption habits have continuously shifted while we as a people grow. What was once a small population with minimal waste is now millions of people. The habits change as we change. At this point in time we are producing more waste than the generations who came before us.
But now it’s in new forms of rubbish like an excess of plastic, more aluminum wrappers and a new one that no one’s had to deal with at such a volume before: electronic waste. As a whole, our country needs to develop new methods or evolve our existing recycling process to keep up with our present consumption rates.
When a landfill is full, whether it’s occupied with food, plastic, glass, or old chemicals, it’s a danger to the condition of our planet. What we put there can release dangerous substances that have the potential to damage the land we live on and the water that we drink.
If we sort our waste responsibly and employ smart recycling techniques, we can keep our planet safe for years to come and keep an immense amount of goods out of the landfills.
Pitfalls of Single Stream Recycling
We’re all very familiar with the fact that recycling needs to happen more. That’s no big surprise. But to be correctly recycled, your waste needs to be in the proper waste stream, not just the general one that everyone uses.
See, what many people don’t understand is that your blue recycling bin is part of a single stream process. This means that you gather your plastics, paper, and cardboard in one place and after they are transported to a recycling plant they are sorted either by people or with some of the technology that has recently been developed.
In the case that the items are sorted correctly, they are placed with similar items. These goods are then chopped down and melted at a high temperature in hopes of creating something new. Is there anything that you should be doing in your home to help improve recycling recovery rates? How can you do better when it comes to think green?
Unfortunately, up to 40 percent of what should be recycled in single stream programs ends up trashed and sitting in landfills. This is because if these items are contaminated then, as the pros would say it, “All of the apples in the barrel are ruined and they all get thrown out.” It’s an imperfect system, but it’s all that we have right now.
Why Should You Start Sorting Your Recycling?
When you’re thinking about single stream recycling, consider for a moment the transportation of these items. A big truck, which is not always fuel efficient, moves slowly as it picks up junk from your home and the rest of your neighborhood. After a long day of pickups, the items are then transported to one big recycling facility.
In the case that the items are contaminated, this means that another truck will have to put harmful fumes into the atmosphere when transporting them a second time. Not only is this wasteful when it comes to our limited fossil fuels, but also it eliminates the entire purpose of think green. How hypocritical can we be when it comes to things like this?
Some examples of the importance of sorting recycling are pretty obvious. But there are others that you wouldn’t necessarily think of. For instance, it makes perfect sense that paper contaminated by food can no longer be recycled. When grease or fibers cover the clean recycled item, they won’t mix with the other papers. But this isn’t the only way that paper can be ruined.
You’ve probably not thought twice when you threw a glass bottle into your blue bin. However, they do not belong in single stream waste management programs. If your glass is brought in, there’s a good chance that it’s going to be crushed in the process, whether by machinery or just the weight of other items. If this happens and the glass is shattered, small shards of glass can hold onto the paper. Because of this, an entire batch of recycled goods can no longer be processed—the curse of poor waste management.
Moving on to bigger items, if metal isn’t sorted out correctly, you will destroy what could have been a big part of our economy. When aluminum is melted down with other aluminum, no matter if it came from foil or cans, this new product will be developed into new soda cans, among other things. However, if there is a metal like steel in the mix, you’ve now created an alloy. This mixture can no longer be used.
Plastic bags, strings of Christmas lights, garden hoses, or shower curtains create an entirely different issue. We get overzealous when recycling. You don’t want a single item to go to waste, so after you’ve been spring cleaning, you throw these items into a single stream bin where they don’t belong. As they are pushed through a plant, these items will then get tangled into the machinery, slowing production or causing bigger issues. This could halt an entire day’s work.
You can actually put people in danger by not carefully sorting through your recycling. Your idea of waste management may include tossing out that old can of hairspray and putting it where you think it counts: the blue bin. Unfortunately, if it was an aerosol can of hairspray, you can hurt someone. If these items are crushed in the trucks or even in the machinery in the recycling plant, they can cause explosions.
No waste management system is perfect. They are changing every single day, shifting as we learn more. The sorting technology isn’t at a point where it’s able to catch things like batteries, appliances, or electronics. It’s up to us to stay on top of things and find the correct places that they go. We must develop effective recycling and sorting processes in our own homes if we want to have a greater impact.
The go green market is a difficult one to stay on top of because it’s always changing. How does one person keep up with so many different kinds of recycling?
Learn the Rules in Your City
Collection systems can vary from city to city. This is especially true if you once lived in a large metropolis area but now live in a small town. The difference is that the big towns can manage the recycling on their own. Many smaller towns will bus their waste elsewhere. This can complicate your recycling process because now there will be extra hoops to jump through when learning the ins and outs of your city’s glass, metal, and electronics recycling programs.
You know how to recycle, but you need to learn better processes for everything that doesn’t belong in the single stream system. It would be great if there were individual bins at each of our homes to make life that much easier. But until the day comes where those are standard, it’s on us.
Do a little research online. Most questions can easily be answered with a quick Google search. What are the rules your city has laid out? In the case that you’re unable to put certain plastics in your recycling bin, spend some extra time outlining the places you can leave these items. Where do your old electronics need to be? What should you do with any scrap metal? Where do your glass bottles need to go from now on? Many cities will have big collections areas for these items.
Next you need to be vigilant. You don’t want one can of tomato sauce to wreck the possibilities for the rest the recycling you put in your bin. Take the extra time to wash these items out and prepare them for the best processing that you can, making everyone’s lives easier.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Sometimes, no matter how much we try, we can’t find the straight up answer. If there’s even a little bit of hesitation or things are slightly unclear, it’s time to speak up. Reach out to the folks who work in the waste management industry around you. They will often know the best way to dispose of things that don’t have a home in your blue bin. Knowledge is power, and spreading that knowledge is how you impact a change.
Alternate Types of Recycling
One of the most forgotten and biggest opportunities we have when it comes to minimizing waste is compost. Two thirds of our waste can be recycled or put to use in future items. That doesn’t even factor in the waste that comes from unused or moldy vegetables. As you’re putting together a nice big dinner, those potato peels and carrot greens can be doing more for our environment. Take the time to separate them out before the trash goes out each night.
Sign up for one of your waste management program’s composting bins. They are typically easy to come by, and often don’t require a weekly pickup. This way, scraps and uncooked items no longer have to be trashed, a first world problem. Instead, they can be collected in one place and put to good use.
You cluster these items in your designated bin. When they are picked up, the waste is sorted. Over time, it will be transformed into something great before it’s sold once again—a beautiful cycle. It takes 21 days for food to decompose. For another eight to ten months, the compost will be hosted in a site that allows it to mature and be turned into highly sought after manure.
While you’re being vigilant, using hawk eyes to sort your recycling, it can sometimes help to think further down the line. Get to know what happens to each of the things you sort to further motivate yourself. Discover the amazing ways that you can contribute to our planet.
When we recycle effectively and responsibly, it shows in a very clear way that we respect both our planet and our fellow man. Do you part and think green.