Sustainability Tip: Recycle properly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
Did you know that if we properly recycled 28% of our waste stream in Colorado, the effect would be equivalent to removing about 485,000 cars from the road annually? That’s according to the Colorado Public Interest Research Group’s State of Recycling report. While recycling can be confusing, it’s one of the most practical, impactful and useful solutions to tackling our climate crisis.
Recycling is all about markets, so the recyclability of a material depends on its market value and how and what it can be re-manufactured into. Those markets dictate what you can put in your curbside recycling, our community drop sites and bins at work. That means recycling, just like product values, can change and fluctuate.
More and more companies are creating closed loops for their products by using their own recyclable materials to make new products, becoming a part of the solution rather than contributing to our recycling challenges. Companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi are making developments so their bottles are not only recyclable but made from recycled material as well.
In general, it is much less resource-intensive to make a product from recycled materials than to use “virgin” materials. For example, the Aluminum Association’s research states that making an aluminum can from recycled aluminum uses about 90% less energy than making a can from scratch. Furthermore, any aluminum can you purchase is likely to have already been recycled: 75% of all aluminum ever produced is still in use today.
There are lots of other markets and stakeholders at play beyond our local recycling collection too. For example, some hard-to-recycle materials that we can’t put in our curbside bins can be processed through companies like TerraCycle. Regardless of how deep you dive into recycling markets, it is important to be mindful of the impact you can make by purchasing thoughtfully and recycling right.
Here are some tips to get started.
1. Plastic bags and other plastic films can be recycled at the Avon Walmart among other locations. Learn more at PlasticFilmRecycling.org.
2. For a list of hard-to-recycle products that you can ship for free through TerraCycle, visit TerraCycle.com/en-US/brigades#.
3. Be careful of common recycling mistakes. Not all plastics are recyclable. Plastic bags, plastic utensils and paper plates with a plastic film/coasting cannot be recycled in curbside bins or community drop sites. Avoid purchasing these items whenever possible, and opt instead for materials that can be diverted from landfills.
4. Reducing waste is even better than recycling or composting. Use reusable cups, plates, bowls, bags and utensils whenever possible. While many events in the Eagle Valley require vendors to provide consumers with compostable products, using reusable items has even less of an impact on the environment.
5. If you’re ever unsure if a material is recyclable locally, check on the Eagle County Waste Wizard app. You can search products, learn what goes where based on your hauler and recycle right.
Jake Watroba was a summer sustainability intern at Walking Mountains Science Center. For more information, contact Nina Waysdorf at email@example.com.