Twenty years ago, I vaguely understood what recycling was about. I thought it was putting plastic bottles in special trash cans. I may have recycled if there was a blue recycling bin in sight, but I never made a special effort to recycle.
I blame part of my attitude back then on availability. I lived in apartments and condos for much of my late teens and most of my 20s, and none of the buildings had designated recycling areas. And, of course, I was just too lazy to collect all my recyclables and take them to a recycling station.
Now? I’ve done a complete 180. I’ve been known to reach into trash cans and reclaim recyclables to dispose into recycling bins. Thankfully, no one has caught me at the office. I can’t help myself. I hate to see the discarded boxes for frozen foods or aluminum cans in the trash rather than the recycle bin.
And I’m no different at home. I’m constantly taking things out of the trash – and then talking to the offending family member about what goes in the trash vs. the recycling bin – and putting them in the recycling bin. I’m not surprised my husband starts to turn away when he sees me walking toward him with a plastic produce container. I tell him, “You know this container can be recycled right?”
But I take pride in knowing that I’m saving something that can be recycled from going to the landfill. I even make it fun for my kids to research whether our household items can be recycled. Batteries? You bet – even rechargeable and lithium ion batteries. Just take them to a hazardous recycling location or check out a mail-in program. Call2Recycle has great information.
Or #5 plastics like takeout containers or yogurt containers? Surprisingly, yes. Check out Gimme 5. You can drop off your #5 plastics or mail them to Preserve – where they’ll upcycle the plastics to toothbrush handles, reusable food storage containers and disposable dinnerware. Plus, all of Preserve’s products can be recycled again into new products.
I often ask my kids to think about whether they can recycle an item before they throw it away. And my next project will be working on composting some of our food scraps to make nutrient-dense soil in our garden.
So if you see my diving for recyclables in the trash or dumpster, don’t judge me. Have you ever recycled something that you didn’t know could be recycled?
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