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Recycling Makes Sense. A Single Bottle, A Single Can, A Single Box All Matter – So Does Your Participation

July 14, 2020

This week's guest blog is courtesy of the It's All You campaign of The Recycling Partnership. The original posting can be found here.

Why should I recycle? It’s a question that we’ve all asked ourselves. The Recycling Partnership wants you to know that the answer is easy. According to the Partnership’s Chief Community Strategy Officer Cody Marshall, “Every time we recycle, we reduce pollution and conserve resources. But recycling does more than that. Recyclables have potential. When you recycle something, you’re actually putting material back into the supply chain.” It’s simple, easy, and something that we can all do from the comfort of our homes and offices.

What actually happens to the materials placed into recycling bins and carts?

The current recycling system in the U.S. is designed so that empty, loose recyclable materials placed into recycling bins and carts go through a system that is designed to sort, break down, and use those materials to create new products.

“Your community recycling programs and the businesses that rely on recycling do not want to see that material in a landfill. Follow your local guidelines to figure out what is and what is not recyclable and how to prepare your materials correctly. That material will then go through the system and be made into new products, Marshall said”

Knowing what is and isn’t recyclable can be a challenge, but we’re here to help. Learn more by viewing The Recycling Partnership’s Top 10 Recycling Facts.

Here are some examples of how materials are reused:

  • Recycled paper contributes to the creation of several products including paper, napkins, paper towels, and toilet paper. Paper can be recycled seven times.
  • After being broken down and placed into recycling carts, cardboard boxes are made into new boxes within weeks. Perhaps you’ve even received the same box more than once!
  • Aluminum is the a very recyclable material and has no end-life. It can be recycled as many times as it is placed into a cart or bin which saves water and mined resources.
  • Plastics can be recycled into new bottles, picnic tables, insulation, picture frames, clothes, carpet, and more.
  • Glass does not degrade through the recycling process and is therefore 100% recyclable. Recycled glass can become glass bottles, jugs, and windows to name a few and can be back on the shelf as new bottles within weeks.

Can one person really make a difference?

So what can one person do? It is important for people to understand that a single bottle, a single can, a single box all matter. When we choose to recycle, we start a chain reaction of positive change. People just need to understand that by participating, they’re really affecting positive changes right in their own communities.

A recent poll conducted by The Recycling Partnership shows that 84% of Americans believe recycling is an essential service, with 81% feeling that we’re too wasteful. The top five reasons why people recycle are:

  1. To make sure the world is inhabitable for future generations.
  2. To make the world a better place for future generations.
  3. To preserve natural resources.
  4. To reduce carbon emissions.
  5. To minimize accumulation in landfills

Do manufacturers really use recycled material?

YES. Big business and industry rely on recycled material. The supply that comes from our homes is crucial. As individual recyclers, the material that we put into our bins or carts eventually makes its way back to packaging manufacturers and the consumer goods industry. By doing this, we are reducing the use of virgin materials, which conserves natural resources, and we create more supply of recyclable materials (known as feedstock), which is then made into new material that will be used again. This provides a closed loop system and a circular economy rather than a system that ends up with more waste and less reuse. To learn more, please read the October 2019 press release announcing The Recycling Partnership’s Bridge to Circularity Report.

How can I recycle better and do my part?

Perhaps the most important question for each of us is, what can I do? Here are a few basic guidelines to help you become a better recycler and partner:

  1. Know your community’s recycling program. Learn the facts about what your local recycling program accepts. That information is available on your or county’s website.
  2. Avoid putting contaminants (trash and other non-recyclable items) in your recycling bins and carts.
  3. Trust and have faith that if you follow the guidelines, your material will be recycled.
  4. Know that the material you’re recycling will indeed go through the closed loop system described above. Keefe Harrison, CEO of The Recycling Partnership, said it best. “It is clear that unless stakeholders from across the value chain align and step up, we will not be able to drive the change necessary to move recycling in the U.S. to the next level. Every day we hear from citizens, communities, policy makers, corporate leaders, and other NGOs who all want the same thing – a stronger recycling system. It will take bold public-private partnership and leadership to make lasting improvements. Now is the time for action.” Learn more about how recycling can save the planet.

Disclaimer: Guest blogs represent the opinion of the writers and may not reflect the policy or position of the Northeast Recycling Council, Inc.

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