How To Recycle the Right Way (with sources)

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While I’ll be the first to tell you that going vegan is the best way to reduce your carbon footprint by HALF (recently backed up with the latest report from the UN), there is more we can do to love our home planet.

Reducing consumption of products has always been the goal, however, the practice of recycling was not something I really ever took advantage of until the last 2 years. In almost every place I’ve lived, recycling wasn’t something I had easy access to due to small living spaces & the lack of recycling resources nearby.

I’m regretful to say that until moving to Denver and living in an apartment complex which values recycling enough to dedicate its own space near the community trash bins has opened my eyes to how much I’m actually using on a weekly basis.

From the moment we got here, we became fully aware of what we were consuming, and I decided to tackle this recycling thing one step at a time. 

First we need to educate ourselves a little bit.

Did you know that 50% of the 254 million tons of trash Americans throw away is recyclable, and only 34% of it all actually gets recycled? The United States itself produces so much trash that we’re even shipping it to other countries who don’t want it to begin, with and they actually might not be recycling it at all. Even if that is true, I’d rather try my best then contribute to the overall problem.

So what CAN you recycle?

The Official website of Waste Management states:

  • Metal (Aluminum cans, aluminum foil, & bakeware, steel/tin cans)

  • Paper/Cardboard (corrugated cardboard, magazines, office papers, newspapers, paper-mail, etc)

  • Glass (clear, brown, green)

  • Plastics (jugs, liquid containers)

  • Batteries & bulbs (car, home)

  • Electronics (computers, office supplies)

***Please make sure you read the specifics on WM.com about what to recycle. There’s no need for me to reiterate what’s already been stated.***

What about Plastics?


You know those little numbers found inside the recycling icon usually at the bottom of your plastic food/personal-care packaging? Those are NOT A RELIABLE SOURCE for letting you know if it’s recyclable or not.

The numbers range from 1-7, but here’s the catch: only 42% of them are actually recyclable! Which ones are they?

The quick answer is, numbers 1, 2, and 5 are considered recyclable plastics. Read more about why and what the numbers mean here.

The best practices we can take when recycling the right way:

  1. STOP USING SO MUCH TO BEGIN WITH

The problem starts with us. If we’re unaware of how much we’re using in the first place, then how can we be a part of the solution?

I challenge you to take inventory of what you’re consuming:

  • What are you using that can be recycled?

  • How much plastic are you using?

  • Are there any areas you can cut back, buy bulk instead, or do simply without?

These are hard questions to ask if you’ve learned to be dependent on one-use containers, but they can be easily assessed with some intentional effort

2. IS IT CLEAN?

When we collect the material(s), it has as much as 25 percent contamination, but by the time we sell it it needs to have less than one percent,” says Susan Robinson, senior director of sustainability and policy for Waste Management. (via Popular Science)

Whatever you do, don’t put your dirty containers of any kind in the recycle bin. This includes shampoo bottles and any plastics found in your bathroom.

Dirty recyclables have become more of a problem, and because of that workers are forced to dump thousands of pounds of trash into landfills each week. That’s a waste of their time and your time for trying.

This means: washing, drying, and properly disposing of your items.

3. KNOW WHAT NOT TO RECYCLE

Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know, and that’s okay. Things to be aware of: plastic bags, metal scraps, and crushed cans can often cause more problems than what was intended.

Make sure to read the guidelines provided by Waste Management so you know what not to do.

4. DO YOUR BEST

The task may be daunting to any one individual, but with knowledge, willpower, & sharing with others, we can collectively make a difference in our world. 

Do your best, and don’t beat yourself up about it if you mess up. With a learning curve comes opportunity to do better next time.

Have more questions about the topic of recycling? Want to learn more about how to become more fully human? Need help when it comes to loving your environment? Please feel free to send me an email at amybeth@thatveganwife.com and check out my time on LA Talk Radio’s State of the Oceans. Previous show recordings can be found here.

xo,

Amy Beth