If you've been workin on reducing your waste for a while now, you've probably seen the amount of waste in your trash can decrease, but seen more and more things making their way into your recycling bin. Wouldn't it be awesome if there were a day dedicated to celebrating the impact and importance of recycling?
Actually...there is! Since 1997 November 15th of each year is celebrated as America Recycles Day. According to the EPA website "The recycling rate has increased from less than 7 percent in 1960 to the current rate of 32 percent." The EPA isn't only interested in celebrating the rise in rate though, they're also celebrating the "681,000 jobs and $37.8 billion in wages" that recycling has generated as an industry.
So how does one even celebrate America Recycles Day?
1. Get familiar with what your city accepts for recycling
Not all plastics are created equal, and not all things that are recyclable can be recycled curbside! Check your city's website to see what's acceptable and what can't go in your curbside bin. If you're in Philly, the website is right here.
Making sure that you aren't "wish-cycling" and mixing in items that your city can't accept is really important. Often times the no-go items are things that will jam, stall, or otherwise damage the machinery at recycling plants.
2. Do a bin audit
Don't we love a bin audit in the waste reduction community? It's something I like to do periodically just to see what's making its way into my trash and recycling and reflect on my habits. Some questions I like to ask myself as I'm looking through what's in there are:
- Is everything in your recycling bin accepted by my city?
- Are there things in my trash can that are actually recyclable?
- Is there anything that needs to go to a niche recycler or unnecessary waste that I can cut out?
3. Look into alternative recycling programs in your area
If you find yourself with an abundance of plastic bags, snack packaging, lightbulbs, batteries, electronics, textiles, or any number of other things that are recyclable but not curbside-recyclable try searching out specialty recyclers in your area. You may be able to find a Terra-cycle collection box for some things at your local co-op or health food store, and some Target locations also accept limited specialty recycling.
If you live in certain areas you might also be lucky enough to have a business that specializes in collecting and sorting niche recycling. For instance, Rabbit Recycling in Philly collects and sorts specialty recycling for you, ensuring that it gets to the right place. They partner with local re-use shops, artists, thrift shops, and recyclers, working to divert as much waste as possible before sending the items they collect to be recycled.
4. Support businesses that repurpose or up-cycle materials
So many amazing businesses are working to breathe second life into "waste". Supporting these businesses means that you are supporting initiatives that try to prevent waste from going to recycling in the first place, which often means less transportation and less energy expended to create a new product.
Keep an eye out for businesses that are local to you doing the hard work of up-cycling. Some of my Philly favorites include:
- Remark Glass - glass blowers who specialize in melting down and re-blowing post consumer glass into functional every day items like plates, drinking glasses, vases, etc. Imagine you could eat pasta off of a plate that used to be a sauce jar!
- Bee Our Guest - a bees wax wrap company making the best darn wraps there are using dead-stock fabric. That's code for fabric's last stop before heading for a landfill!
- The Resource Exchange - a non-profit re-use store hosting a wide variety of lightly used craft supplies, building supplies, office supplies, props rescued from film sets, and so much more.
- Vellum Street Soap Co. - a body care brand focusing on using tallow (rendered fat left over as a by product of butchering a cow: it often goes to waste!) and using post consumer glass in packaging their balms and bath salts. Fun fact, they partner with Remark Glass' sister organization, the Bottle Underground, for the glass they use!
- Dumpster Fires for You - a candle maker pouring into vintage and thrifted vessels.
Do you know of another local up-cycler that I should know about? Please shoot me a message and let me know!