Reducing how much waste we produce can seem like a daunting task, at times. Often we don’t really know where to start, or we think that we can’t possibly make a difference as individuals. In reality, every decision to recycle and compost is important.
The effects of one individual’s recycling and composting might be small, but those effects quickly add up when more and more people follow suit. So to give you some guidance or inspiration, here are five easy ways to reduce your waste footprint on a daily basis!
Compost your pizza boxes: Many people put their pizza boxes into the recycle bin, however, this poses a serious problem for paper recyclers once your bin has been collected. The grease in the cardboard of a pizza box can spread to other cardboard and paper goods at the recycling center, contaminating whole loads of recycled paper, and making it unusable.
Unfortunately, if this happens, this recycled paper is ruined, and the contaminated batches have to be thrown away. Thankfully there’s an easy fix: Simply put your greasy pizza boxes into the compost bin!
Rinse / clean out your recyclables: Contamination is a major issue for recyclers and takes a number of different forms. Most commonly, contamination is when non-recyclable materials find their way into the recycle bin, but another major source of contamination is unclean recyclables.
Usually this happens when you’re trying to recycle containers that have food scraps or stains on them. Unfortunately, too much of these contaminants can increase the time and labor costs that go into properly recycling these materials, and if enough gets through, it can spoil entire loads of recycled material.
This is why you should make sure that you’re rinsing out your recyclable containers (like cans of food, and plastic to-go containers that can be recycled.
Pick up some reusable grocery bags: Plastic grocery bags have become a major problem worldwide, not only for recyclers, but for the environment more broadly. They find their way into the world’s oceans and rivers, and other ecosystems, hurting wildlife.
These plastic bags also cause quite the headache for recycling centers: they can get caught in conveyor belts and sorting machines, causing the whole plant to stop operations while they try to remove these bags. The director of a recycling plant in Chicago says he stops his plant five times a day to remove plastic bags clogging his equipment.
When you do find yourself needing bags at the grocery store, you should opt for paper, which is more easily recyclable, and has less of an environmental impact than their plastic counterparts. However, the best course of action is to pick up a reusable grocery bag, which cuts down on both the use of plastic bags, and the millions of trees cut down every year to produce paper bags
Buy a reusable water bottle or thermos: Globally, more than 100 million water bottles are consumed every single day. Unfortunately, only about one out of every five of these plastic bottles ever get recycled, the remainder either end up in landfills, or become litter that pollutes wildlife ecosystems and our oceans.
Look around your bathroom for often forgotten recyclables: One simple way to reduce how much waste you generate is to take a look at some of the items around the house that you might forget are recyclable. Plenty of items in your bathroom or laundry room are recyclable, but often don’t end up being recycled because people forget about them.
For instance, many bottles that contain shampoo, body wash, and mouthwash are recyclable; the same goes for many different laundry detergent containers. Just be sure to rinse them out before recycling!