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Recycle Right: 10 Ways to Help Save Our Systems

Blue recycling bins for tips to recycle right

Today marks Global Recycling Day, designed to drive world leaders to work together on recycling as a global issue and ask people across the planet to think resource, not waste, when it comes to the goods around us. Here’s why this is so important in the US:

  • The US recycles less than 22% of its discarded materials.
  • Less than 10% of plastic gets recycled.
  • In 2018, China banned taking a lot of our trash for recycling. Our cities can’t keep up!
  • 92% of Americans are unsure about how to recycle right… so we are wishcycling and crippling our own recycling economy.

Ultimately, recycling is NOT the answer as we need to change our larger consumption and packaging norms to begin with. However, it’s still important we all do our part to help our local systems with these simple steps.

#1 Learn Your City’s Rules

It’s not easy being green, each municipality has its own capabilities… find out!

#2 No Bags!

Tossing these curbside seriously tangles recycling machines. Find a specific drop-off. (Don’t bag recyclables either.)

#3 Small Things = Big Problems

Anything smaller than a credit cart clogs the machines. Keep bottle caps on, toss straws and plastic dishware.

#4 Quick Rinse is Good

You don’t need to go crazy, but a rinse of sticky residue will ensure it won’t grease up and ruin your other mixed recyclables like papers.

#5 Keep Out Food Waste!

It contaminates about 25% of our recycling… NO greasy pizza boxes, oily take-out containers or dirty plastics. (ps. These aren’t recycled at restaurants.)

#6 Combined Materials = Trash

Recycling only works when like materials are together. Ahem, plastic-coated coffee cups! It could help to take tape off cardboard boxes.

#7 Know Your Plastics

#1 and #2 are generally curbside-recyclable. The rest get harder to recycle and slow our cities down (especially the catch-all #7). Check locally.

#8 Beware the Bioplastic

Compostable and biodegradable labels? Compostable plastics are ONLY SO in industrial facilities! Ask those manufacturers, are these curbside recyclable or backyard compostable? How do I dispose of this responsibly?

#9 Find Specialty Recycling Options

For things like batteries, tires, electronics, paint cans, toys, clothing, print cartridges, wood, mattresses and more. Keep your own bins for this to create the habit.

#10 No Wishcycling… When in doubt, throw it out!

NO! Garden hoses and cords, plastic bags, diapers, propane tanks, needles, clothing, Christmas lights, coated paper products, etc. Don’t ruin a lot of other recycling with your good intentions.

If you’re anything like us, it hurts to throw things away… Just remember, recycling right can be hard, but it’s important so we don’t do more harm than good with our best intentions. Here are a few other recycling resources you can check out:

  • TERRACYCLE: A business taking all kinds of hard-to-recycle items with programs to get your company involved.
  • Helpsy: The largest clothing collector in the Northeast US, with over 1,800 collection containers and growing.
  • How2Recycle: The How2Recycle label was created to provide consistent and transparent on-package recycling information to consumers in North America.
  • Recycle Across America: Text FIX IT to 40649 to join this 501(c)(3) non-profit’s efforts to providing society-wide solutions that remove public confusion and expedite environmental and economic progress.
  • Earth911: Check out this section for info on how and where to recycle various items in your household and subscribe for more tips.
  • Keep America Beautiful – Get more recycling tips through this campaign to to End Littering, Improve Recycling and Beautify America’s Communities.

Another way to help?

Buy recycled to drive consumer demand for recycled gear:

  • Eco-friendly bamboo utensil set for camping, travel and more
    Bamboo Utensil Set & Recycled Carry Case
  • Packing Cube 3PC Set - Made from 100% Recycled Materials
    Packing Cube 3PC Set – Made from 100% Recycled Materials
  • Product on sale
    Ten Tree brand daily tote bag in dark blue with a waves print; made with REPREVE fabric and BLOOM foam padding
    100% REPREVE Fabric Denim Daily Tote – Waves