Shades of Green: Recycling

recycleRecycling—it’s a noble thing to do. And it’s getting harder and harder to tell people—maybe even your kids—that you don’t recycle. The truth is, though, if it’s inconvenient it’s a deal breaker.

Done well, it doesn’t require much time or effort and it sure can make a big difference for you and the environment. However, the national recycling rate is only about 30 percent, according to the EPA.  Let’s face it—most folks won’t drive across town with a car full of recyclable items just to make their contribution to the cause. But more and more community and city leaders are taking a proactive stance and have pushed through local initiatives like curb-side recycling and established drop-off points. And there’s every reason to believe the trend will continue.

So, join the cause, learn what to do and get your recycling program going. Hopefully, this series of ideas will make it easier for you than you think. Go at your own pace, but get movin’! The time has come for many people to do some things rather than for one person to do many things. Whatever you do will make a difference.

Many regular day-to-day activities produce materials that should be recycled. But what to recycle and what to just throw away? Here are some quick and easy ideas:

  • The first thing you need to do is “think recycling.” Energy savings do add up. For instance, it takes 95 percent less energy to produce an aluminum can from recycled aluminum than from bauxite ore. It takes 40 percent less energy to make a glass bottle from recycled glass than it does to make one from sand, soda ash and limestone. An added bonus? Recycling means less littering.
  • The second thing you need to do is understand the entire recycling loop. It’s just not enough to send items away to be recycled. You must also purchase recycled products or the process just doesn’t work. Read the packaging and do your homework and you can find recycled products and materials.
  • Now you’re ready to recycle. Set up containers for the following recyclable classes of items: paper and cardboard; plastics; glass; and metals.
  • Let’s talk paper and cardboard first, since paper takes up about 50 percent of all landfill space. Newspapers should really be saved in its own container as newspapers go directly into newsprint recycling. Recycling a four-foot stack of newspapers saves one 40-foot fir tree! Corrugated cardboard is a highly valued recyclable. But please keep it dry. Plastic or waxy coated cardboard, such as pizza boxes, cannot be recycled.
  • Magazines, glossy paper, envelopes, phone books, computer paper and paper packaging can be saved together in one bin. Paper with staples still attached is okay, but remove all rubber bands and plastic overwrap.

By Julie Vincent, APR and Bob Dittmer, APR

From: Shades of Green, available at


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