My family and I are committed to doing our part to help keep the planet healthy. We recycle and reuse whenever possible, and this routine started when I was growing up. I remember back to when I was a kid, driving through Staten Island, former home of a very active garbage dump, and having to roll up our car windows, to block the awful smell. In my head, I can still see the lines and lines of trucks, waiting to dump all that trash. While we’ve always recycled in our house as kids, I remember when it eventually became mandatory to separate your garbage before trash pickup. This is well before all houses were issued those blue and green garbage pails. Before this, we would take empty bottles to grocery stores and recycle directly.
Fast forward to present day and now a mother, my kids have been exposed to reducing and reusing for their entire lives. What does that mean for our family? Separating our garbage and plastics has become somewhat second nature. We always carry our own totes to the grocery stores, and chances are you will find one of those totes folded in my handbag on any random day. School lunches are packed in reusable lunchboxes or snack boxes. We carry around our own reusable water bottles. I use reusable dish rags in the kitchen to reduce the use of paper towels, and over the last few years, we’ve even started composting. I always thought that our family did its fair share in reducing our carbon footprint within society, until I started diving deeper on what else could be done to better the environment.
Turns out we haven’t been recycling correctly all this while, and there is so much more that my family and myself can be doing. For example, where do you throw out all of that bubble wrap that protects your packages? Do you make sure your plastics are washed out before placing them in recycling bins, and are you certain these plastics are actually recyclable? And lastly, when it comes to plastic bottles, should I leave the caps on? Turns out they actually should be left on.
When I began learning more about recycling – I also discovered the term circularity – something you are probably not familiar with. Circularity is the ability to keep using plastic for as long as possible – recovering used plastic and then recycling it into new products. So how can we, as individuals, help move towards circularity?
The first thing we need to do is know exactly what we’re recycling. Some products that look recyclable may in fact not be. I was shocked when I started really looking at all the things that my family thought was recyclable. Quite a lot of garbage was ending up in our recycling bin. This is bad because non-recyclable products can harm recycling machinery, or ruin entire batches of recyclable material. It’s vital that we educate ourselves on all recycling labels, so that what we put in our bins can actually be recycled in general and can be done so in our area.
When recycling bottles, be sure the cap is screwed on and all contents have been emptied. Plastic grocery bags, sandwich bags, and produce bags all can be taken back to your participating local grocery stores, Target, or other retailers for recycling. Plastic containers should be checked thoroughly for recyclability, and this can be tricky. It’s best to go to BeRecycled.org or get in touch with your local recycling company to confirm what is recyclable. Finally, remember the motto: when in doubt, leave it out.
Plastic circularity is key to healing our planet, and together, we can do it. Coming across all this information has enlightened me, and every member of our family is committed to doing their part to help plastic circularity. Each one of my children have participated in helping me sort plastics, recycle and are even advocating on the cause to their friends. This is something all households can do for the long-term effects of our planet. I hope you will all join me on this mission, in doing our part. Learn to recycle properly, buy from companies that use recycled plastics, and always reuse bottles, containers or bags for as long as you can. Together, we can make plastic circularity a reality.