Listen, with the current rate of population growth, it’s extremely difficult to deny that some serious environmental responsibility needs to start happening, and quick. One of the easiest, most straight-forward, accessible ways to start reducing your ecological footprint is by recycling – whether it be organically through composting, or making an effort to start separating things into your blue bin. Recycling is crucial when it comes to looking after our planet, and if we don’t get as many people as possible on board ASAP, the end of earth as we know it will arrive much, much sooner than expected.
The importance of recycling can be broken down into two parts: 1) Importance to people and 2) importance to the environment. According to recyclingguide.org,uk, each importance can be broken down further into individual factors:
Importance to the Environment:
Importance to People:
It’s not hard to understand why recycling is so important to both humans and the environment, but how can you know if you’re doing it correctly? It’s important to note that recycling programs vary by city, but we’ve put together a general, more commonplace list of ways you’re more than likely doing recycling wrong – or worse – not at all.
1. You’re failing to realize the importance of re-useables.
It’s no secret that plastic is seriously one of the most harmful things to our environment, like, ever. In 2016, the World Economic Forum reported that, “if we keep producing (and failing to properly dispose of) plastics at predicted rates, plastics in the ocean will outweigh fish pound for pound in 2050.” So take into consideration whether or not you really need a bag to carry your single bottle of shampoo home from the drugstore, or, if you do, consider keeping a re-usable bag or two on hand for times as such. And when it comes to grocery shopping, consider buying bulk foods in your own containers from home. Again, it cuts back both the amount of plastic we produce and harmful waste in our ecosystems. Do some good for the planet!
2. You don’t wash out your plastics.
Wondering what to do with all of that waste that suddenly appeared after you forgot to take your bulk containers with you to the grocery store, or that now-empty bottle of shampoo you needed a bag to carry home? Don’t just throw it straight into the trash bin. Most of it can be recycled after a quick rinse to get the scum off, especially things like empty dairy product containers and old beauty product bottles. Keep that plastic out of the ocean!
3. You’re throwing your unwanted clothing straight into the garbage.
Thrift stores exist for a reason, my dear citizens. There’s people out there who rely on having access to your out of style jeans, not to mention there’s a good handful of teens who thrive on thrift store chic. Next time you go to toss out that old t-shirt your cousin brought you from the Caribbean, bag it up instead, and your local second hand shop will thank you for it. Worried about the stains on the front? They’ll (probably) still take it – most thrift stores sort through the items and pick out the good stuff, then bale the rest to be bought by or donated to NGO’s, disaster relief funds, or companies who just need some new rags. And another note: thrift stores will take almost anything, so think twice about whether you really want that old couch or outdated jewelry to end up in the landfill.
4. You enjoy your drinks with a straw.
Sure, maybe you’re one of the good ones who recycles at home, but you would still rather sip out of a straw than alter your lipstick when you’re out on the town. Again, the main damage straws are causing goes back to the oceans. In theory, they can be recycled, but are so small and so commonplace that the majority don’t get properly disposed of, and wind up up a sea turtle’s nostril instead. According to StrawlessOcean.org, around 71% of seabirds and 30% of turtles have been found with plastic in their stomachs. If plastic is ingested, marine life has just a 50% chance of survival. Straws might make your beverage a little more enjoyable, but do you really need one with every single iced latte you consume on the daily? If your answer is still a yes (remember the turtles!), consider a re-usable option like bamboo EcoStrawz. They’re affordable, stylish, and you can buy them here.
5. You don’t research before you toss.
When getting rid of unwanted items, it has almost become a no-brain action to just chuck things straight into the garbage. Do some research about collection facilities in your area before throwing out things like computers, batteries, ink cartridges, and light bulbs, as products like these are often very harmful or even ‘toxic’ to the environment. Even if there isn’t a collection facility nearby, check with local artists in the area, as many often use old technology or household items in their work and would be grateful for a donation. When possible, buy rechargeable or longer lasting versions of these products, as well; it’ll save you money and reduce waste in the long run.
6. You don’t buy recycled products.
The whole point of recycling is so that we can re-use materials that have already gone through the manufacturing process, thus saving energy, raw materials, expenses, space, etc. In 2015, the Global Forest Watch reported that the earth lost more than 18 million hectares of tree cover in the year previous – more than twice the size of Portugal, and deforestation rates have not slowed since. When you’re out shopping, take the time to note if the products you’re buying have “made from __% recycled materials” printed on the label, and if not, consider switching to an option that does.
Be a good citizen and do your planet some good – recycling takes almost zero effort but can have an enormous impact on the environment. Not only will you feel good about all of the organisms you’re saving, but it’s rewarding to know that the bottle previously containing your now-consumed Diet Coke could be turned into a t-shirt or sleeping bag. We’re well on our way to hitting peak garbage, and in some areas, humans are already living atop piles of it. Take the extra two minutes to properly dispose of your waste, and rejoice in the fact that you’re saving the planet one re-usable bag at a time.
Still interested in ways you can further help save the planet? Click here for more ideas on how to ‘live better.’