Recycling feels good. But some of us may be getting too much of this good thing...
Because "recycle" is the last "R" in "reduce, reuse and recycle." And, with some exceptions — cell phones, batteries, light bulbs, plastic bags, medications, for example — we've become too good at it.
If your blue bin is full to the brim each week, maybe you need another solution.
Learn how to recycle less! Here's why:
Perform this quick experiment at home:
- Step one: Inventory the blue bin. (It's full of plastic, right?)
- Step two: Search your home for goods made with 100 per cent post-consumer plastic. (I found a few Green Toys made from recycled plastic milk jugs — #2 or HDPE, recycled plastic planks (lumber) as our walkway and an Organic Girl tub of greens. That's it.)
I can't confirm where all the plastic you're diligently recycling goes (and I'm not into conspiracies). What's clear is that other "R's" deserve our attention — reduce, reuse, refuse, reclaim, renew, revitalize, refurbish, rethink and redesign, to name a few.
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Five tips to recycle less
Tip one: Shop smarter.
Beware of excess packaging from all consumer goods — food, personal care products and electronics, even organic, local, non-toxic and GMO-free stuff.
Substitute: Make toothpaste with baking soda, coconut oil and a few drops of peppermint essential oil or try brands packaged in glass (reusable) containers instead of a plastic tube in a paper box.
Tip two: Never recycle another glass jar!
They're easy to wash (dishwasher-friendly), have an air tight seal, freeze well and don't leach toxics like Bisphenol-A (BPA).
Substitute: Store leftovers and dry goods (instead of buying containers) or pack your lunch in glass jars. Note: Depending on the distance of your work commute, you might choose stainless steel lunch containers because glass is heavy.
Tip three: Reduce is the first "R".
It's time for a plastic diet! Buy fewer prepared foods, buy in bulk and pack waste-free lunches.
Substitute: Eat a lot of yogurt from plastic tubs? Maybe it's time to invest in a yogurt maker!
Tip four: Make your own cleaners.
Stop recycling plastic tubs, jugs and spray bottles from household cleaners.
Substitute: To a seven-litre pail of hot water, add one cup of baking soda, 1/3-cup of salt and one cup of liquid castile soap. Use a ½-cup per load of laundry. (See more recipes at queenofgreen.ca)
Tip five: Fix it.
Thanks to planned obsolescence, most consumer goods are designed to fail. And household items have become cheaper to replace than to repair. Although most provinces have recycling programs for large and small appliances, try fixing things first.
Substitute: Check if your city hosts Repair Cafes! Tweet @RepairCafeTO, @RepairCafeYYC and @vanfixit, too.
Where to recycle tricky stuff
There are some items we put in municipal blue bins hoping they'll get recycled — polystyrene, batteries, light bulbs, electronics, plastic bags, household hazardous waste (paints, garden chemicals), etc.
Substitute: London Drugs has a "bring back the pack" program. Bring in the receipt and they'll recycle cell phones, batteries, disposable cameras, small appliances AND the packaging (like Styrofoam)! I also have a list of recycling FAQs — from child car seats to mattresses and drywall.
Can't reuse, repair, refurbish or repurpose it? Here's a list of recycling resources (organized by location) to help.
Reducing consumption isn't easy. We're also saddled with making good use of what we do have, getting our money's worth AND proper disposal. Wouldn't you rather DO stuff than OWN stuff?
Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green