Best ways to solve the recycling problem

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Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on

Well, since the worst ever Earth Day present in history has now been delivered by pretty much every media outlet in the world, you’ve probably already heard about the looming crisis in the recycling industry.  Those who have always been anti-recycling (and yes they exist) may be rejoicing, but if this system truly fails then it will be a significant setback for the planet.  So, with Earth Day coming up quick on the calendar, we must all decide how to respond to this latest challenge.  My suggestion is that the answer to the problem is YOU!

That’s right folks, just like the problem originated with us, it can be ended by us as well.  How, you ask?  Ironically the plan really isn’t that complicated.  We simply need to follow three basic steps to right this very lopsided ship.

  1. Don’t stop recycling, but make doubly sure that you’re doing it the right way.  Check with your local garbage company about what their rules are, and then follow them!  Set up a system at home for collecting your recyclables in a way that they won’t get contaminated by the regular garbage, and make sure you’re taking the time to prep and sort you’re recyclables accordingly.  For example, some refuse collection systems will take pizza boxes and egg cartons, but others won’t.  Some food containers might be acceptable, but only if they have had any remaining food debris cleaned out.  Having contaminants in the recyclables can actually get the entire batch rejected, so it’s important that we all get much better at monitoring this right from the start.
  2. Use less, and there’ll be less to deal with later.  Just like switching to reusable bags helps to put fewer plastic bags in the waste, and recyclables stream, the same concept applies in other areas as well.  When buying products think about what happens to it in the end.  Does it make sense to buy a quart of milk every couple of days, or can you just go ahead and buy a gallon? Not only does this take fewer trips to the store, but also takes less packaging that will later have to be dealt with as well.  Take stock of what you buy on a regular basis, and look for ways to improve the waste output by reducing the number of containers you’re putting into it.  If you’re thinking, larger containers of detergent and shampoo are so heavy , and inconvenient to use, there’s a simple solution, just keep one small bottle, and refill it from the larger container as needed.  That way you’re daily use still involves the smaller, easier to use container, but you also wind up consuming less packaging in the long run (win-win)
  3. Become the market for recycled goods yourself.  As they say, you can vote for product changes with your purchases.  If more people demand products that are made from, or contain a high percentage of recycled material, then companies will listen.  If you don’t believe me then just check out how many organic food options there currently are in your grocery store.  Trust me when I say that no mainstream company was waiting around to carry out that business decision.  No, they were forced into it by their customers demanding it.  So, if we all start e-mailing companies we buy from, and letting them know we’re no longer willing to buy products that have single use plastic as their main design element, then we will start to see a change.  As more products require recycled, and recyclable packaging materials, then the market for those components will grow.  Part of the process will, of course, be to look at our own consumption patterns and make corrections as needed, but it’s all doable in the end.   This won’t solve all of our environmental problem, but it is a good next step.  We all just have to be willing to try.  Happy Earth Day Everyone!!!

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