Channeling your inner recycler

© A week's worth of recycling rejects

I'm taking the #lesswastechallenge. And yes, it's pretty challenging.

With a new set of roommates and summer approaching, we are creating lots of extra trash. (I'm sick of hearing myself telling people that Starbucks coffee cups are the OPPOSITE of recyclable and that the idea of compostable containers is pretty much a bust.)

Going to the grocery store feels like food buying as well as useless trash creation.

But there are bright spots. I've now set up mini recycling bins in the bathrooms, and I have an extra collection bin in the mudroom for all the recycling that can't go curbside but can either a) go to a local recycling center or b) can be sent to TerraCycle when I have enough pounds to make it worth printing out a label and getting a box together.

Also, I've learned a lot, and had a few recycling triumphs - unbleached paper towels going into the compost bin, along with hair (hey, it's a rich source of nitrogen) into the backyard compost Tumbler. And though I hesitated to buy that whipped cream that comes out of an aerosol can for a birthday party, I was pleasantly surprised that the container is steel, and curbside ready.

I've paid to recycle my old fluorescent tubes and a few of the old-fashioned compact fluorescents, as well as paid to get rid of a couple of pounds of AA batteries. I haven't yet felt renewed commitment to rechargeable batteries because they are so expensive, but I'm working my way toward that.

For the most part, however, I've had disappointments - rubber bands, not recyclable! Plastic easter eggs, ditto! Lots and lots of plastic tops and lids just weighing down my garbage and making me a bit depressed.

channeling-your-inner-recycler© This recycling bin (blue) is stuffed with non recyclables

The most important phrase I've learned doing the #LessWasteChallenge is EXTENDED PRODUCER RESPONSIBILITY. Ultimately, when you channel your inner recycler, you begin to ask yourself this question: "OK, so Starbucks tried and failed to get cup recycling going. So who has responsibility for the gazillions of waste cups?"

Your answer is (hopefully) - you AND Starbucks. So it's good that more companies - Dunkin' Donuts and YUM Brands, for example - are taking pledges to make their packaging more recyclable. As You Sow is a non-profit engaging with corporations through shareholder resolutions to try to get them more responsible for implementing sustainable packaging. Dunkin' for example, has debuted a recyclable polypropylene coffee cup and is working on a recyclable lid. (Polypropylene is supposed to be okay to eat and drink out of even if the food or beverage is hot.)

While I'm not close to the four pounds of trash I was supposed to "save" this month, I have gotten to be a better, and more committed recycler. Here are this week's tips:

1) Shop at the co-op first - if you put your reusable jars into your reusable bag and hit the coop first you'll have less packaging in the trash.
2) Locate your nearest recycling facility - chances are they'll take more than your curbside program.
3) Put mini bins in places where recyclables might tend to get put in the trash.
4) Check out TerraCycle's great partner programs and the good companies that are starting to realize their packaging responsibility.

p.s. In the photo above, the whipped cream can can be recycled curbside (in Portland, OR). The berry container can be recycled, too, but only if there's no berry juice or smears. The plastic bags and some lids (with recycling numbers) can go to the recycling center. Easter eggs? Goodwill bound.

Tags: Recycling | trash tycoon | Waste


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