Over the course of our three-part series, we’ve taken you through each piece of the mantra “reduce, reuse, and recycle.” Why is reducing your waste or important? Because roughly 55 percent of 220 million tons of waste Americans produce every year ends up in landfills, out of sight and out of mind. The sheer volume of trash we produce, electronics included, has large carbon and environmental footprints. They affect our waterways, our food chain, and the very existence of many species.
That’s why the final part of the mantra, recycling, is the one we hear most often. It is the most visible action you can take. We know we should toss cans, bottles, paper, and cardboard in special bins that whisk them away to a recycling facility. But what does that actually look like? How can we be better at recycling? Discover a bit more about what happens when we recycle everyday objects, and how you can make your recycling more Earth-friendly and effective.
What happens when we recycle?
First things first, let us dispel a myth: A majority of refuse in the recycle bin does actually get recycled. Recycling management companies are usually charged hefty fees to dump waste in a landfill, so they try to use all of your recycling as a commodity. Recent innovations allowing for single-stream collection mean consumers can toss most recyclables in one bin, which are then identified with lasers at a recycling facility. Any leftovers are called residual, and recycling companies want to have as little residual as possible.
That doesn’t mean everything you toss into the bin gets recycled. And we’ll cover some ways you can help recyclers out in the next section. One fun fact: Not all of your recycling remains in the U.S. The import and export of scrap materials and recycling is a multibillion dollar business.
Recycling pro tips
First, you have to determine if what you are tossing out is actually recyclable. Every area has its own rules and regulations for what can be recycled. For example, the city of Portland, Oregon, is well-known for its diligent recycling practices, collecting plastic, glass, and paper with additional bins for compostable materials. Actionable cities like these create mindful populaces that spread the message outward. You can usually find a lot of information about what your city does and does not recycle on the city’s website, or by searching “recycling
Don’t worry too much about cleaning out everything that you recycle. Most facilities have machines that can deal with contaminants, so just give food containers a quick rinse before you toss them in the bin.
In addition to recycling everything you can (including electronics), you can help maintain the recycling ecosystem by purchasing recycled products or products with recycled packaging. You can usually identify them by reading the label carefully; it helps to be a discerning consumer here. If something seems like it isn’t as recyclable as it should be, look for greener options.
And don’t forget to reduce and reuse while you are at it. Remember, it is a trifecta of actions that ensure we have a healthy and sustainable planet.
Where to go from here
Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed the journey from reducing and recycling, and now you are better informed to go out and make healthier, more sustainable choices for our planet. We hope freeze-dried foods can be a part of that journey as well, because they’re healthy for you and the environment. If you’d like to find out more about Mercer Foods’ sustainability mission or have questions in about freeze-drying, contact us. We’re also available on Twitter and Facebook. In the meantime, remember the three Rs!