It may seem counter to what we’re always told, that recycling is great and we should always try to recycle whenever we can. And it’s true! But recycling is actually the third step in how we should treat goods and things that we purchase. We’ve all heard it and it goes. Reduce. Reuse. Then Recycle. So in this little article, we’ll give a few tips on how to use those first few steps and several others to reduce your recycling.
Reduce purchases. Of course, this is sometimes easier said than done, but if you put a pause on purchases for a week or even a month, it can help give a little perspective on what we actually need to live day to day. You can even take this a bit further by deciding to only purchase things if they are secondhand or made from high quality materials that will last for years. By buying secondhand, you’re Reusing items that would have either been recycled, disposed of, or sent overseas to be distributed.
Repurpose your recycling. This tip all depends on what you’re trying to reuse but it’s amazing to see what we can all do with things that we’re trying to repurpose. For example, you can poke small holes in the bottom of tin cans, give them a bit of a paint job to make them look cute, add dirt, and plant some little succulents or other plant in it. Here are another 50 cute and crazy ideas for using tin cans. Similarly, yogurt containers, bread bags, paper, and most other items to be recycled, can be put to use before it’s tossed into the recycling bin. Yogurt containers can be used as freezer storage. Bread bags can be washed out and used in the place of ziplock bags, or you can cut the corner tip and use them as piping tubes for icing. Just do a quick google search before tossing it and see how else you can make your materials work for you!
Buy from the bulk section. COVID has made it a little more tricky to buy the wide variety that we could before, but bringing your own produce bags and stocking up on unwrapped produce is a great way to cut down on the plastic that you’ll bring home and need to recycle later. You can also grab household things like hand and dish soap, toothpaste tabs, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and even rice and grains at Naturistas and Purple Carrot. Just remember to bring several jars for all of the things you want to stock up on.
Make your own. This tip takes time, practice and patience, but it’s so worth it if you’re willing to give it a try. There are so many things in our home that come in packaging but could be made from scratch. Pasta sauce, bread, deodorant, canned goods, pasta noodles, even tea and dried herbs. Now don’t be intimidated by it all and don’t try to tackle it all at once. Pick one or two things that you’re interested in trying and give them a go! In my opinion, deodorant and pasta sauce are the two easiest and these are the recipes I use. Deodorant. Pasta Sauce.
Buy locally. Why buy locally? Well there are so many reasons why, but for this article, buying locally means that the items we’re purchasing won’t come in so much packaging! And of course, it’s always best to support the little guys like that mom & pop shop on the corner, or that handmade pottery biz that your cousin started. But if you can’t find a local vendor or manufacturer, then at least try to purchase from a business that is close by. Because as I’m sure we all know (and were reminded of when we went on crazy buying sprees during the first few months of COVID) getting items shipped to your means that there is going to be A LOT of packaging. Although some of it is recyclable, because of all the glue and different materials stuck together, most of it isn’t. Plus the whole point of this is to reduce recycling, so shop local when possible.
Buy in bulk. Buying in bulk is great because it means that you’re ultimately getting a bigger bang for your buck. Of course if the thing that you’re buying is food, and you accidentally let half of that food go bad because it was just way too much food for you to deal with in the first place….that’s a whole other problem. But that’s a subject for another day. Returning to the idea of packaging though, buying in bulk often means that there is less of it used to protect whatever you’re buying. Let’s take potatoes for example, you can buy several little bags, or you can get that giant bag! Honestly, grabbing potatoes from the open produce section is the best option, but getting that big bag means that there will be so much less packaging to recycle since there is just one big bag rather than a million little bags. Or if you’re nifty, you could put that big bag to use in some other way.
Recycling is great. It’s a great way to take perfectly useful materials, break them down and use them again. But the packaging of products has gotten a little ridiculous and there is often not a big enough market for these recyclable materials (because they are of lower quality than brand new materials), so a lot of them end up in the landfill anyways, which is exactly where we don’t want them. In other words, our recycling system is flawed (just like most of us) and so if we can find a way to reduce the amount of materials that we’re tossing into the recycling bins, or even find a way to reuse them ourselves, that is an even better solution! We’re proud of you for all of your wonderful efforts to make this world a better and cleaner place!