Let’s talk trash. The average American produces 4.6 pounds of trash — each day. That’s not a pretty picture. According to the EPA, 27% of glass is recycled, 45% aluminum cans, and only 9% of plastics. According to the University of Utah, half of all waste Americans throw out can be recycled! We can do better!
I believe you are already doing better. You recycle steel and aluminum cans, glass jars and beer bottles, water bottles and even hand carry plastic bags back to the grocery for recycling. What’s next? You can’t move your family to the woods and live on nothing but bark and berries!
Here are several additional ways to recycle and reduce your contribution to the waste stream.
Food scraps and yard trimmings together comprise 25% of waste in landfills. The ultimate recycling, you can take that waste and cycle it back into dirt for your garden or yard. Maybe you can use it to grow tomatoes this summer, or a tropical hibiscus indoors to brighten your home this winter. I found lots of directions for different styles of compost piles, from lazy composters to worm composters (bonus points if you have a fisherman in the family!). And no, they don’t have to smell!
Americans throw away 68 pounds of clothing, per person each year! Those aren’t just torn, grubby clothes used to paint the spare room — a lot of those clothes are still wearable! Donating used items to your local thrift shop keeps waste out of landfills, and benefits your community. Thrift shops provide jobs, job training, and an income stream to a variety of charities. Your ugly sweater might turn into a scholarship for a needy student, or dog food for the animal shelter, or housing for an abused woman. Some charities, like Goodwill, accept torn or broken items and either repair them or sell the materials to a commercial source as rags or raw materials.
Since childhood, you’ve probably been re-purposing trash into better things. An empty paper towel roll became a trumpet or a spyglass on a pirate ship. Take a look at your trash before you throw it away. Can those old fence boards be turned into the dog house you’ve been wanting, or a chicken coop? When the teapot lid broke, can you fill it full of wildflowers to deliver to a sick neighbor? Daddy’s old shirt makes the softest, nicest nightgown for a little girl. To re-purpose your broken or torn items, search a site like Pinterest using “upcycle (item).” Alternatively, if you need a new headband, search “upcycle headband” for ideas on how to use the scraps from your t-shirt project to make a headband out of things that otherwise would not be highly valued.
Recycling doesn’t just have obscure benefits. It saves money, creates jobs, saves landfill space and promotes cleaner air. Recycling 82 million tons of waste saves the same amount of energy as is produced by 10 billion gallons of gas. Ten billion extra gallons might have an effect on my price at the gas pump, which is something I would really like to see!