✔ Be aware of your ‘waste’ stream – Many people are unaware of their personal waste stream. Your waste stream is your personal contribution of waste that ends up in landfills. Every item you buy, unless recycled, will eventually end up in a landfill. The most significant materials (listed in order of volume) include paper, yard trimmings, food waste, plastic waste, metal waste, textile waste (including rubber and leather), glass and wood.
✔ Reduce the amount of garbage you create – The most effective way to reduce your waste stream is to reduce the number of items you purchase. Before making a purchase, think about whether you really need that item. If it is not important, don’t get it.
✔ Pay attention to the packaging – Always try to find products that come with the minimum amount of packaging. Product packaging represents one of the most serious environmental problems of the modern consumers’ goods market. Often times, more resources and energy go into the packaging than the actual product itself. Once discarded, the packaging will need to be collected, transported, sorted, processed, stored, and either disposed of or recycled.
✔ Avoid buying disposable items – Try not to buy disposable when a reusable alternative is available. Good examples of this include disposable cameras, nonreturnable bottles, styrofoam cups, paper plates, paper towels, plastic beverage bottles and many more.
✔ Reuse items instead of throwing them away – Second only to reducing consumption, reuse is a top way to create less garbage. If you can’t think of any ways to reuse your trash items yourself, consider donating them and giving someone else the chance to breathe new life into your used items.
✔ Recycle everything that you can – By recycling your garbage, you not only cut the amount of solid waste that enters landfills and incinerators, but you also promote a market for goods made with recycled materials and minimize the need for virgin resources. Recycling also helps you reduce your carbon footprint.
- The first step to recycling is to find out what programs exist in your area. More and more municipalities are offering (and in some cases requiring) ‘curbside’ recycling. If your city offers this, request and reviews their recycling guidelines so you are aware of exactly which items they collect. If there are items that they do not collect, put a box in your garage, collect these items yourself, and do a quick internet search to find drop-off points in your area.
- Materials that are commonly collected for recycling include steel cans, aluminum cans, newspapers, magazines, catalogs, junk mail, plastic beverage bottles, milk jugs, glass bottles and jars, cereal boxes, other clean and dry cardboard boxes. The following are generally not collected: plastic grocery bags, styrofoam, light bulbs, food-soiled paper, wax paper, and ceramics.
✔ Compost your biodegradable and organic waste – Collect your biodegradable and organic waste and either compost it in your backyard or sending it to your local composting facility.
✔ Opt for recycled-content products – Shop for products that use recycled content. Recycled content is appearing in more and more products. Some common examples include wrapping paper, toys, fabrics (clothing, carpet, rugs) and products made with glass.
✔ Dispose of household hazardous waste properly – The phrase household hazardous waste (HHW) refers to products used around the house that can harm human health or the environment if improperly handled. These products can include pesticides, car batteries, disposable batteries (even though these are sometimes defined as universal waste – which can be thrown away with regular trash), cleaners and solvents, paint, motor oils, unused medicines, e-waste (old computers, printers, and electronics), antifreeze and pool chemicals. Collect these items and drop them off at your local Hazardous Waste collection point.
✔ Paper vs Plastic – the correct answer is neither – Both paper and plastic are harmful to the environment. Neither is clearly better than the other when it comes to a ‘greener’ choice. Instead, use a durable reusable bag made from recycled materials.