Re-thinking Recyling

Picture Christmas morning in your mind’s eye (you know this scenario very well):

The children’s eyes pop open and they hop out of bed. As you sip your morning coffee, your little urchins dash for the Christmas tree and tear into the presents like frenzied piranhas attacking a dying cow. In their wake, they leave a trail of brightly colored Christmas paper and packaging.

After the excitement dies, you gather the mountain of paper, cardboard, and plastic to carry it to the recycle bin. You are confident that the recycling company will ship it all to China, where it will be transformed into crappy plastic toys that the Chinese will sell back to us next Christmas.

If you are patting yourself on the back at this point for being a responsible person and doing your part to save the planet, you might have to think again. The trash that you recycle may end up in the landfill anyway!

The recycling business, just like every other business on the planet, is experiencing hard times. I briefly caught a “news” story on television as I was cooking supper yesterday. It seems that a local recycling center is struggling. They have reduced their work force from 100 people down to 50, because business isn’t so good.

It’s not that there isn’t anything to recycle. It’s that there aren’t many buyers, in this economy, for the recyclable materials. Y’all know how we aren’t buying as many unnecessary plastic objects because our pocketbooks are so skinny? Well … that reduces the demand for the recycled goods.

This news disturbed me, because I have been patting myself on the back for recycling (of course, our city demands it and will fine you if you don’t). I’m thinking that maybe I’m looking at this whole recycling from the wrong end.

Maybe I shouldn’t be bringing home that trash in the first place!

Oh, I already knew that. But, even though I know it, I don’t do what I should. I buy rolls of paper towels that are individually encased in plastic, and then wrapped together in another plastic casing. How silly is that? I shouldn’t even be buying the paper towels in the first place. Not if I want a “green planet.” I definitely should be looking at how much packaging encases the products I purchase.

I’ve been thinking of a few tiny changes I can make that will stop some of the waste. I’m asking you to give me some other suggestions. Maybe I can make this list really long. If you can think of one thing would you add it in the comments? I’ll add it to the list with a link back to you.
[and, remember that until December 12th, any comment you make causes me to donate a can of food to my local food bank]

  1. I’m going to remember to keep those cloth bags for carrying groceries in my car instead of in the pantry. I always forget them when I go shopping and wind up bringing home groceries in plastic bags.
  2. I’m taking my own cup to the coffee shop to get my mocha — so I don’t get another paper cup to throw away.
  3. Instead of buying black wrapping paper to wrap the 50 tiny gifts for Mr. Tucker’s birthday later this month, I’m wrapping them in the comic section of the newspaper. That fits his personality better, anyway, and at least it will get two uses before it goes to the dump.

So help me create this list, won’t you? Give me a simple suggestion for ways to cut the waste.

  15 comments for “Re-thinking Recyling

  1. December 10, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    Well, you already do one of my biggies: all presents get wrapped in the Sunday comics. Never buying wrapping paper again in my life.

    If you do find yourself with plastic bags — maybe the ones with the newspaper on wet days or the ones holding the bread loaves — they are great poop bags. (I end up with so much that I bring them to the dog park for others.)

    Used printer cartridges are likely collected by a school near you (along with old DVDs, cell phones, etc.)

    patoiss last blog post..Wordy Wednesday #40

  2. December 10, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    We stopped buying bottled water. Then bought our own very small-scale filtration system and “make” our own. We use the last of the bottled-water bottles we got. When the need arises, I run them through the dishwasher (no-heated dry cycle).

  3. annmarie
    December 10, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    Bringing your own travel mug to the coffeee shop is a MUST!!! SHAME ON ANYONE who uses up a paper or (heaven forbid) a syrofoam cup every morning on their way to work. And at work, you better have your own cup – take it everywhere – to EVERY meeting, etc.

    I even keep a tupperware dish in my car so if I’m eating out & have leftovers I go get it rather than use those HUGE styrofoam leftover containers. That is IF i have leftovers. :mrgreen:

    COMPOST, COMPOST, COMPOST!! If you grow anything, you should compost.

    Should I tell you how I really feel?????

  4. annmarie
    December 10, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    OK – one more & I will shut up.

    DO NOT BUY bottled water. Just think of all those empty bottles floating in the ocean. YIKES!!! Instead buy a PUR water pitcher ($20) or something similar & fill your rewashable water bottle.

  5. December 10, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    Shelly, you rawk! Hehe! I’m a recycling junkie and it seems that my post consumer artwork has a new name, too: “Upcycling”. Using garbage to make art. My kitchen counters are tiled with leftover tile and broken pottery, and I’ve recently started making yard art from bowling balls. One thing I do that may not be feasible for city peeps, is use the grey water from my washing machine to water a tree and a couple sweet sage and butterfly bushes and a lavender.
    How about GiftBoxes from Cereal Boxes??
    I’m afraid my funny papers go in the bottom of my bird cages along with the rest of the newspaper. From there they go to the compost pile (seeds, bird poop and all). Pretty fabric from old clothes also make great gift wrapping!

    Thornes last blog post..Only The Good Friday #6

  6. December 11, 2008 at 12:40 am

    I love using those cloth shopping bags – better for the environment and a LOT easier to carry home too.

    What about using cloth napkins, but for several days at a time. Many (many many) years ago when I was an exchange student in France, the family I stayed with did this. Each person got a napkin and their own napkin ring. Unless there was a major mishap, at the end of the meal everyone’s napkins went back into their ring to be used by them again the next day. They only washed them once a week. Saves on garbage (no paper), water, soap, and electricity :).

    Robins last blog post..After the rain, revisited

  7. December 11, 2008 at 8:02 am

    Hi there!

    Thanks for writing this article. There are so many things that you can do, and as I tend to be a little verbose, I’ll just do a bullet list of some of the things that my wife and I do.

    Shred every piece of junk mail that comes in and then recycle it.
    Shop with an eye toward recycling. Buy organic eggs in the recyle-able plastic cartons as an example
    Buy good cloth napkins for use with dinner
    Buy a “bag of rags” from the hardware store and use those instead of paper towel.
    If you do have to use paper towel, buy something like “7th generation” brand, that is 100% post recycled.
    Buy “7th Generation” toilet paper and recycle the cardboard tube inside of it.
    Use pickle, olive, salsa jars for keeping nails, tacks etc for the workshop
    Eat more vegetables and compost what you don’t finish
    Never fast food, never soda, never ice cream, nothing processed, no frozen dinners, never bottled water…
    C.F.L.’s always, wrap your water heater in a thermal blankent, turn your heat down to 60 at night and while your out of the house. Keep it at 68 while you are home.
    Keep canvas bags in the car, because you will forget them when you go grocery shopping if you dont.
    Plastic bags for pet poop, an aluminum drinking bottle that goes everywhere with you, print on both sides of the paper at home, plug your computer, printer, tv, vcr, dvd, video games etc into one power strip, then turn the power strip off when not in use….
    If you get green enough, you’ll get to the point where it becomes who you are. You’ll find that you don’t eat anything that cant be picked or killed, you’ll pay off credit cards and debt, your savings and 401K will grow, you’ll be healthy and happy.

    Dangit, still verbose.


    Adam Shakes last blog post..Being Green – What Makes Me Choose To Do The Things I Do?

  8. Deborah S-A
    December 11, 2008 at 8:10 am

    Our thing – which we’ve done for ages – is to use washclothes instead of paper napkins. They come in bright, fun colors and wash easily.

    Also dishclothes instead of paper towels.

    If you belong to a CSA take your plastic bags to them for others to use when getting vegetables. We always need them at our farm. We also like empty bottles for folks to use for flowers.

  9. December 11, 2008 at 9:39 am

    I’m so newly green that I’m still in the pastel stage, so some of your commenter’s suggestions are a little overwhelming. But others I love, such as Thorne’s giftwrap in pretty old fabrics…I might do that this year!

    For the newbie greens, I suggest gift bags, instead of gift wrap. Most people don’t throw out gift bags, they reuse them for regifting. I know we do in my family, we’ve had some gift bags reappear for years now. Lol

    I also agree w keeping the cloth shopping bags in the car, I do that.

  10. December 11, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    We used cloth bags for groceries, and when we do leave them at home 🙄 and have to revert to plastic, as long as there are no holes in them we use them for trash to “save a trash bag”. And what we COULD do, is just buy another recyclable bag instead and when we have too many donate them to someone who hasn’t got the money to even buy a recycled bag… I also use plastic bags that veggies come in as trash bags. My neighbor used the bags his newspapers came in for his trash bags.

    As for paper towels, guilty, but we use the choose a size and use a whole, whole lot fewer.

    But I’m going to use Deborah S-A’s idea in the comment above and buy wash cloths to use for napkins, I’ve been tearing a paper towel in half to use less paper….

    And though the surprise is removed, we don’t give each other gifts per se, we just go out and shop for each other together, no wrapping paper.

    Marcias last blog post..Cans For Comments

  11. December 11, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    The Japanese have made an art out of packaging. Even the lunch boxes are tied with cloth and beautiful knots. You might as well learn a new craft while being kind to the earth

    Jamies last blog post..Tell Me A Story

  12. December 11, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    Join a buying group or go to a farmers market for produce. The shorter the distance something goes to get to you, the more environmentally friendly it is.

    Become proactive with suppliers. Let them know you don’t like excessive packaging.

    If you must use Paper Towels or Coffee Filters, don’t use white ones that are bleached. Get the brown and recycled variety.

    Jamies last blog post..Tell Me A Story

  13. December 11, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    I use the plastic bags from the grocery store for my bathroom rubbish cans and for the kitty litter. (Now if I didn’t live near a marsh, my kitties would be outside and I wouldn’t have to use as much kitty litter, but around here, an indoor cat lives much longer..) Okay, back to recycling, we cook enough to have at least one of us bring leftovers to work. We make our own coffee every morning and the grinds with the filter paper get put in the compost bucket with all our “green” waste.
    For a Christmas swap tomorrow, I knitted a cotton shopping bag and will include 3 bars of organic soap, an organic candle with a great scent and 4 instant lottery tickets, all “green”, right?
    We rarely buy processed food, not organic here, but we don’t rely on “instant” suppers here.

    ( Please don’t make my cans, peas…that would be too sad. LOL) Great idea!

    Jennymcbs last blog post..To Market, to market- not me on Black Friday!!

  14. December 11, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    How about going to Freecycle and looking up your local chapter and signing up?? Who knows, that old exercise bike you put in the garage when you got your new stairmaster might be just what someone else needs… clothes, furniture, just about anything you can think of. The idea is to offer for FREE, something you no longer use/need for someone who does need it. Saves a whole lotta space in the land fills!

    Thornes last blog post..Only The Good Friday #6

  15. December 12, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    I wish I have some idea for recycling, I do try not to use plastic when possible and recycling junk mail, using those new light bulbs that suppose to save energy and good for the environment, using less paper by not printing out files to read and instead read them as digital file, that’s all I can think of at the moment

    good luck with cans for comments or is that comments for cans?

    lissas last blog post..Vulnerable

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