It's 2015. Everyone knows the importance of recycling items from plastics, paper, glass, and metals, to junk cars, jewelry, tires, and other items.
Sadly, according to a recent survey by the American Chemistry Council, only half of Americans recycle 75% of their recyclables.
However, some people do recycle. And Junk Car Medics decided to reach out to 25 of them and ask them one question:
What is your top recycling tip for 2015?
Let me tell you, the answers received from these 25 expert recyclers were nothing short of awesome! They are all listed below.
What is your top recycling tip for 2015?
*In order of when received*
Giuroiu Anton - Homesthetics
Giuroiu Anton is one of five members of Homesthetics, a joint website project by four architecture and engineering students about design, art, and smart strategies for a modern lifestyle. Homesthetics features advice and information about furniture and DIY projects, along with insightful analysis of trends in art, architecture, industrial design, and travel.
ANSWER: I'm happy and proud to affirm that the interest in recycling and up-cycling articles on our website grows every day, a very healthy sign for the entire sustainable movement and the world in the ensemble. In 2015 more and more individuals will embrace simple and fun DIY projects. With this thought in mind I would say that the educative DIY projects that can be embraced by parents to teach their little loved ones different lessons will be at the top of the tree; in this category outdoor projects are one of the top choices.
Dinah Wulf - DIY Inspired
Dinah Wulf has found her life calling in marriage, motherhood, and making things. Her DIY Inspired website is a treasure chest of tips for crafts, repurposing projects, makeovers, entertaining, gardening ideas, and ideas on how to use your head instead of your wallet to make your home, and the world, a better place.
ANSWER: My tip for 2015 would be to start with your kids. Teaching them small things like proper plastic, paper, and glass sorting, using recycled bags, picking up trash you see in public places, and planting trees are simple habits you can start at a young age to help create an eco-conscious future.
Bridget Johnson - Green Girl Recycling
Bridget Johnson started Green Girl Recycling in 1998 to give the mountain communities around Boulder Colorado the same comprehensive recycling services you’d find in a progressive city environment. The company was a wild success, and they’ve expanded their service area and the services they offer to include commercial customers and electronics recycling.
ANSWER: My top recycling tip in 2015 would be simple: 'Think before you buy or toss. '
As a consumer, YOU hold all the power. You choose to purchase an item or not make the purchase based upon price as well as, in my world 'extra baggage or packaging'. When you buy anything - you have to live with the packaging and the item itself. When I buy toys for my children for example, I ask myself constantly, "Do we need this toy, and if my 4 or 8 year old has to have it; can I recycle the packaging or is it all trash?" I have talked my boys out of a purchase because the packaging is horrible/too cumbersome/bigger than the toy/can't be recycled and adds to the cycle of buying crap and adding to a landfill. If a package is minimal and is 80% or more recyclable, I am WAY more apt to make the purchase. I often write to manufacturers of toys and tell them they need less packaging or at minimum make the package recyclable.
The other piece of 'think before you buy or toss' is the toss part. Depending on how you were raised and which area of the USA, you may feel like everything is trash and want just to toss it in the trash. You may also feel like everything still has value and should be recycled (that's how I think). If your parents recycled, you too recycle. If your family threw it all away.. well, you probably think to 'toss' first.
My hope will be after reading this no matter where you lie on the recycle vs. toss spectrum, you'll at least begin to think "Is this recyclable?" "Can I recycle this item?" Please start to think about where you should put unwanted packaging, used-up containers, junk mail, sacks and bags, planter pots, old plastic toys, writing utensils, batteries, liners from food items, or other 'stuff' you wind up dealing with at your home or business.
There are recyclable options for most hard-to-recycle items or just items if you honestly looking for a solution. A great place to start is to have two containers in your home. One for all recycling that your local recycler or facility will process and your trash can. Make your trash can smaller than the recycling container - most of what you purchase on average can be recycled, so start with that spatial aid and motivator. Place a sticker on your cans that makes you laugh like "Ya.. recycle me, baby!" "Win-Win" or "Bummer - you lose (sad face)" on the trash can.
The second thing would be to start looking into where you can recycle items like planter pots, and reusable containers or items you buy often that may be recyclable with a little extra thought. I like wine... I had to think outside the wine box.. pun intended to recycle the liners and not feel badly about throwing away those containers. (Terracycle will take wine liners if you mail them in see TerraCycle | Outsmart Waste for more information and other items you may be surprised you can recycle!).
Research where you can take used batteries or old paint cans/unwanted still 1/2 full pesticides or chemicals you don't want any longer in your area (a household hazardous waste collection site) or where you might mail them if you live in the middle of nowhere-ville.
The third, and last thing to ask yourself before a purchase is "Can I recycle this item?" If you want an item and are sure it's not recyclable - ask the store to deal with the trash. I have gone to customer service many times with a purchase and said, I want this item but not the packaging.. will you help me remove my 'toy' 'item' and leave the trash in the store? If enough people complain about packaging to stores and more importantly to the manufacturer - they will make less packaging.
The goal here is to THINK before you buy or toss.
Tracy Bell - Copper, Glass and Recycled Trash
Tracy Bell makes innovative and colorful jewelry from the bits and pieces of everyday life that others throw away. Her creations take on a new and wonderful life when she assembles them in clever and artistic ways. She specializes in fun and funky glass bead jewelry, but her combinations of recycled wires and tiny tinware are even more remarkable. See her creations on Etsy.
ANSWER: I use almost all recycled or repurposed items in my jewelry making, I love the challenge of finding something old or unusual and having the challenge of making it wearable art. I started making unusual items to wear in 2010. My friends and family are always looking for strange stuff for me to include in my work. I look at anything small as a possibility from old light bulbs to tiny tins that use to hold meds. The biggest tip I can think of for finding great items is to have a great support system. I could never find all the items I use on my own. I have two people I have met through my searches that go to estate sales and they have an idea of the types of items I'm looking for so when they have collected a box full of items I meet up with them to sort through the stuff and buy what I think may work. They give me the first shot because they know I will pay what they are asking and I will make time to see the items as soon as possible so they can get on with selling what I don't want. My husband is also a great help; he is a project manager and does site dirt work, he brings home all the copper wire I use in my projects. I didn't set out to use recycled items; it just evolved into this funky style. I started out in 2005 as a glass bead artist and ended up with a bucket full of beads I decided I had better learn how to make something out of them and that set the path to what I'm now doing.
Beth Terry - My Plastic Free Life
Beth Terry learned about the effects of plastic waste on the environment and decided to do something about it. Her website, My Plastic Free Life, is a go-to resource for people trying to discover new ways to keep plastics out of the waste stream, and she encourages consumers and manufacturers to use less plastic in their daily lives.
ANSWER: I agree that it's important to recycle, but it's even more critical to "pre-cycle," which means reducing the amount of stuff that has to be recycled in the first place. By choosing products that are reusable (reusable bottles, bags, containers, utensils, etc.), we can cut down the amount of single-use disposable products and packaging we consume and thus save the energy needed to recycle them. Plastics, especially, are problematic when it comes to recycling because they generally are downcycled into secondary products that are not further recycled. Visit http://myplasticfreelife.com/plasticfreeguide/ for lots of ideas on ways to reduce the amount of plastic in your life.
Jen Rustemeyer - The Clean Bin Project
Jen and Grant Rustmeyer had a little idea that’s become an exciting movement. They pledged to stop buying consumer goods and throwing so much packaging and trash away. Their three simple rules for living simply have caught on with thousands of admirers, and are now featured in the Clean Bin Movie.
ANSWER: My top tip is to avoid packaging so you don't have to deal with the recycling end of things. Buying secondhand is a great place to start if possible.
Thomas Nelson - GASAN
GASAN is an irreverent acronym for a serious mission. It’s a clearinghouse for news and information for people who care deeply about animal rights, sustainability issues, and environmental protection. The website covers essential environmental, scientific, and political topics from around the world, delivered with a dash of wit.
ANSWER: If you haven't started recycling yet, start! If you don't produce much recycling, get a couple of friends to go in on a bin with you to cut down on the cost of recycling. If you already do recycle, that's great! Take time to push your state's legislature toward more aggressive recycling goals. If your state doesn't yet have a bottle bill, call your state representative and senator and ask them to sponsor one. If a bill is in the works, ask them to support it publicly. Until the recycling rate is 100%, we still have work to do.
Bea Johnson - Zero Waste Home
Bea Johnson started her waste-free life in 2008 and has since become a zero-waste lifestyle expert through her books and media appearances. She’s delivered her message about the joys of a waste-not, want-not approach to living to audiences all over the country, and the New York Times has labeled her “The Waste-Free Princess.”
ANSWER: What my family does to generate one quart-sized jar of trash per year is simple: As mentioned in my book, Zero Waste Home, we follow a set of 5Rs in order. We:
1- Refuse what we do not need (for ex. single-use plastics, junk mail, and freebies)
2- Reduce what we do need (furnishings, clothes),
3- Reuse by buying secondhand and swapping disposables for reusables (that includes shopping with reusables such as cloth bags, jars and bottles),
4- Recycle what we cannot refuse, reduce or reuse
5- Rot (compost) the rest (fruit peels, lint, hair, floor sweepings etc).
So, contrary to what most people think, the Zero Waste lifestyle is not about recycling more, but less, by preventing waste from coming into our homes in the first place!
The Recycle Scene - RecycleScene
The Recycle Scene does more than talk about the benefits of recycling. This information-rich website has hundreds of ideas about how you can start dealing with household waste in an environmentally and economical way right away. They have dozens of fun and rewarding projects to upcycle and recycle discarded household items into useful things for the home and garden.
ANSWER: As for a top recycling tip in 2015, we’d say recycle daily. It doesn’t matter how big or small your item is, just find a way. One of the major themes of our website RecycleScene.com is that small actions add up. Throwing something in the right bin, taking a trip to the recycling center, or mailing in an item to a national program- it all makes a difference. There are all sorts of things you probably throw out not realizing that there is a way to recycle instead and once you get into practicing every day, you’ll find your creativity around how to recycle grows and grows.
Stephanie Chamberlain - TerraCycle, Inc
While still attending college, the founder, Tom Szaky, had an idea that has turned into Terracycle, one of the fastest-growing green companies in the world. Terracycle strives to be a driving force behind increasing environmental awareness and action.
ANSWER: While not necessarily 'recycling,' composting is one of the most beneficial things you can do for the environment. Compost your food and other organic waste, like yard trimmings, if possible. As to the EPA's most recent report on Municipal Solid Waste, yard trimmings, and food waste make up almost 30% of what we send to landfills every year. When organic waste rots in an oxygen-deprived landfill, it generates methane - a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. "Composting diverts this organic waste from the landfill completely, providing you with a nutritive ingredient for your plants or garden.
Start looking at the waste you typically throw in the trash bin with a different perspective. It does not come down to ‘garbage or ‘recyclable.’ Recycling should always be a last resort for any item or material. Before you throw something in the garbage bin, think about any possible alternative applications. Is it food waste? Maybe it can be composted. Is it a plastic container? Perhaps it can be upcycled into a desk organizer for your writing instruments. When you breathe life back into what was once considered garbage, it’s no longer garbage.
John Shegerian - Electronic Recyclers International, Inc
ERI is the largest recycler of electronic waste in the world, with locations serving every corner of the United States. ERI has a wide range of recycling programs for business and residential customers, including guaranteed data destruction of used electronics that contain sensitive information, with certificates of destruction issued to clients.
ANSWER: As technological innovations increase, consumers must responsibly recycle their electronic devices in order to protect their digital security and the environment. This means ensuring their chosen recycler is certified by e-Stewards and R2 and offers verification of data destruction. It’s to everyone's benefit to ensure your devices aren’t in the trash!
Nina - Empties Please
Empties Please is doing something about the avalanche of used inkjet cartridges that end up in landfills in the UK every year. They administer many programs for schools and businesses to pay for empty cartridges, which are recycled, refilled, and sold. Everyone benefits from the process, and landfills receive less printer waste.
ANSWER: My top recycling tip for 2015 is 'Recycle for Charity'
At Empties Please we recycle printer cartridges for schools and charity and donate the money raised back to them.
Lauren McKinnis - NC State Recycles
North Carolina State University has been at the forefront of the recycling movement since the 1970s. The university’s wide-ranging and innovative program to educate and encourage consumers to consume less and recycle more has become one of the most highly regarded and effective in the nation.
ANSWER: That is a tough question! Here's our tip:
The Resin Code (recycling symbol with a number) commonly found on the bottom of plastic bottles, cups, containers, etc. does not necessarily mean the item is recyclable in your area. The code is there to identify the polymer that the item was made from. Check with your local recycling facility to see what types of plastics are acceptable in your area.
Tim Weaver - Custom Recycling
Custom Recycling is a scrap metal recycling facility located in Monroe, NC, and York, SC, and takes in scrap metals from Charlotte, Rock Hill, and many other surrounding areas. Custom Recycling currently processes ferrous and nonferrous scrap metals.
ANSWER: One of the biggest things I tell people (scrappers) all the time is that if they want to make more money on their scrap then they need to prepare it so that all they have to do is put it in a box and it is ready to be shipped for melting. This can mean stripping the plastic coasting off the copper wire, taking the steel screws out of their aluminum extrusion, or cutting your bulky steel down to under 3ft x 3ft. The bottom line is the less work we have to do the more we can pay you!
Ellen O'Connor - York County Solid Waste Authority
The citizens of York County in Pennsylvania rely on the Solid Waste Authority to handle all their solid waste needs, with an eye towards recycling whenever possible, and keeping the local environment clean. The authority also defrays the cost of waste collection and disposal by generating electricity from their Resource Recovery Center.
ANSWER: I think the most important tip is to make recycling a habit. Everyone in York County has access to recycling either at the curb (63 municipalities out of 72 offer curbside recycling to residents), and another 13 municipalities offer drop-off recycling programs either as stand-alone programs or in conjunction with curbside recycling. Become familiar with ALL the items that can be recycled and read your hauler’s newsletters to see when new items are added to the list. Teach other family members how and what to recycle. Be sure to rinse containers, remove caps, and break down cardboard and paperboard. If you run out of room in your recycle bin, you can simply buy an inexpensive container at a home improvement store, write “recycling” on it, and put it out with your other bin. The more you recycle, the more we save natural resources, reduce the waste stream, and make something new from the material we already have.
Terri McClymont - Recycling Environmental Action Planning Society
Commonly known by its acronym REAPS, this environmental stewardship initiative of the Fraser-Fort George area has dedicated itself to reducing the volume of solid waste destined for the local landfill by 50 percent. Along with waste avoidance, REAPS holds workshops and projects to help local citizens improve their lives and communities through proven green strategies.
ANSWER: Every single item counts! Recycling just one more item daily makes a real difference to our World. You can recycle in every room of your home and your yard. During 2015, we are asking everyone to commit to recycling 1,2,3, or even 4 more items so they’ll be turned back into useful products reducing the need to consume natural resources. Recycling helps to reduce the pollution caused by waste that ends up in landfills.
Anna Marikar - In The Playroom
Anna Marikar fills her London-based blog with her experiences raising three small boys, with an eye towards hands-on crafts and educational exploration. She encourages readers to try fun learning experiences that will increase a child’s knowledge of the whole world. The blog features nifty crafts and activities that anyone can try using simple supplies you can find around the house.
ANSWER: My top tip on recycling would be to get the children involved and develop ideas to reuse items that would have otherwise been thrown away. We recently made a recycling board game out of an old tissue box, and we have been crafting with lots of other empty packaging too like egg cartons or empty soda bottles. It's lots of fun, and an excellent way for children to learn early on that there can be another solution rather than just throwing things away.
Rajesh S. Desor - Adams Scrap Recycling
If it’s metal, Adams Scrap Recycling is dedicated to keeping it out of the landfill. They accept everything from computer hard drives to junk cars. Unlike many scrap yards, they have small scales so that the general public can bring in small amounts of copper, brass, aluminum, and other metals to keep the environment cleaner while putting dollars back in your pocket.
ANSWER: Recycling is for everyone. It's not just for "tree-huggers." It's not a political movement. It's not a fad, a trend, or a passing fancy. Recycling is an integral part of our conscience as a society. It's a component of our self-preservation instinct: we have to recycle in order for our future generations to inherit a planet that's not laden with toxins and stripped of its natural resources. It's up to us to share the responsibility and encourage our neighbors and friends to try to waste less and recycle more.
Donna - Eco-Mothering.com
Donna DeForbes is the Eco Mom. She’s tried to get past green guilt to substantially improve her family’s lives while being a good neighbor and environmental steward. Her Eco-Mothering blog contains sound advice for green living, natural parenting, and raising an environmentally responsible child.
ANSWER: Recycle that baby gear! New moms: except for a few safety items like car seats and breast pumps, most items (strollers, swings, clothes, toys) can be found gently used. This is great for the earth and your wallet since most baby gear is only used for a few months anyway. Once your kids have outgrown something, recycle it again via donations, consignment shops, craigslist, or swaps.
Nancy - Recycling in Hennepin County
The citizens of Hennepin County, Minnesota, want to keep their communities clean and safe for generations to come. They rely on the Hennepin County Recycling Program to take care of their entire waste disposal needs while avoiding waste and guarding against pollution. Their full-service recycling initiatives are a model for municipal recycling efforts everywhere.
ANSWER: Milk cartons and juice boxes should be recycled. Soup, broth, and wine cartons should, too. Thanks to new technology at paper mills the valuable, high-quality paper in cartons can be separated from the unwanted layers of plastic and aluminum.
However, frozen food boxes and ice cream cartons are typically not accepted because plastic is incorporated into the paper matrix during manufacturing. This added plastic helps protect food from freezer burn and ensures the paper container won’t get soggy.
Jamie Hastings, Vice President, External and State Affairs - CTIA
Wireless Association, originally known as the Cellular Telephone Industries Association, is a non-profit organization that represents and advocates for members of the wireless communication industry. The association often sponsors recycling initiatives to collect unwanted electronic devices that generally end up in landfills and educates the public about using wireless devices responsibly.
ANSWER: For every 5,000 recycled phones, we save 11,000 kilowatt hours of energy. But before you recycle or donate your “old” devices, erase your personal information from your device. There are various options from carrier- and manufacturer-sponsored initiatives to third-party organizations, such as drop-off or mail-back programs, websites, and charity drives. If you're unsure where to recycle your wireless devices, such as cellphones or smartphones, all major carriers and many others will accept any device or accessory at their stores, regardless of which carrier provided your service.
Katka Konecna-Rivera - Living Green with Baby
Living Green with Baby is the creation of Katka Konecna-Rivera, an architect and filmmaker specializing in sustainable design. The website has a wealth of informative and interesting articles and videos about green living, gardening, wellness, recipes, and teaching your children to be wise environmental stewards from a very young age.
ANSWER: My advice/contribution would be to start promoting recycling early on, and raise a new generation that doesn't know anything else.
Mitch Hedlund - Recycle Across America
Recycle Across America keeps it simple. They’ve identified a fundamental problem with most recycling efforts, and they’re doing something to help. They print and distribute standardized recycling labels that make it easy for consumers to pre-sort their trash into easily handled recycling streams. The New York Times has called it one of the most important environmental fixes taking root today.
ANSWER: Recycle Right: Recycling has been identified as the most important action society can do to help the environment, but only when done properly. Unfortunately, every day, millions of tons of garbage are thrown in recycling bins due to the public’s confusion by historically inconsistent and confusing labels on recycling bins. This contamination cripples the economics of recycling and prevents many companies from choosing recycled materials for use in their manufacturing. When manufacturers continue to use virgin materials, finite natural resources are rapidly depleted. Additionally, without proper recycling and reuse of materials, these otherwise valuable materials are actually increasingly plaguing waterways, oceans, and sea life.
Proper labeling on recycling bins reduces confusion at the bin, thereby reducing contamination of recyclable materials. Recycling rates in the U.S. haven't improved in over 17 years. If we could double the current recycling rate of 34%, it would be the carbon equivalent of removing 50 million cars from the roads yearly. The action of recycling right will create jobs, save energy, reduce waste, protect our oceans and waterways, and conserve natural virgin resources.
Recycle Across America (RAA) is a non-profit organization, which has developed the first and only society-wide standardized labeling system for recycling bins to help eliminate the public confusion surrounding recycling and to improve the economics of closed-loop manufacturing. To date, many leading global brands are adopting the labels such as Bank of America, Disney, Hallmark, NBC, SanDisk, and thousands of K-12 schools and universities -- in fact, more than 750,000 standardized labels are displayed on recycling bins throughout the U.S. today. RAA and the standardized labels have been identified as a world-changing solution by Ashoka Global Innovators for the Public and are referred to as “one of the most important environmental fixes taking root today.
Keith Blizzard - Green Blizzard
The Green Blizzard is dedicated to educating its readers about the size of their carbon footprint, and how to do something constructive about it. They have tons of information about saving energy, recycling, gardening, diet, and sustainable strategies for green living. If you’re looking for practical advice about how to live better while contributing less carbon to the environment, you’ll find it here.
ANSWER: Every consumer product we use, whether a car, cellphone, bottled water, or shampoo, has various degrees of embodied energy that go into the manufacturing process. Every component required energy to make, which cast off greenhouse gases from the motors used to mine the materials, the motors used to refine the material, and the motors used to build and ship the product - all of which are considered the embodied energy of your product.
So, the longer we can extract value from any consumer product, the less greenhouse gas we emit over our lifespan. Recycling your junk car is a smart way to reduce the CO2 and other greenhouse gases you emit. If your junk car can find a new home, the parts can be reused, or the scrap material can reenter the manufacturing cycle, every option will reduce your carbon footprint.
Mike & Micki - reCreate Design Co.
Some people reuse things to avoid throwing them away. Mike and Mick from Recreate Design Co. transform things and help you do the same. They take unwanted things that would normally make their way into the waste stream and turn them into wonderful useful and artistic treasures to make your life, and the world, a little better and more interesting.
ANSWER: When we were asked for our top recycling tips in 2015, images of reused and repurposed car parts danced in our heads. We are, after all, a creative reuse studio with a car wash on one side of us and a car repair workshop on the other. Enjoy our tips - and of course, reuse those car parts!
Huge thanks to everyone who contributed to this awesome post of recycling tips.
And now it's your turn. What is your top recycling tip for 2015?