Three Not-So-Obvious Reasons to Recycle

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I am pleased (and slightly ashamed) to announce that we recently started regularly recycling household goods, for the first time in my life. And I mean really recently—like since the beginning of the year. Of course I’ve been wanting to start recycling for a while now, but excuses always stopped me. We don’t have enough space for another bin or curbside recycling is so expensive in Colorado; we can’t afford it or I’m a busy mother of two. I can’t think about recycling on top of everything else! Several weeks ago we jumped in with both feet.  Caveman bought a bin to serve as the collector, and we joined the fight to save the Earth by driving our recycling to an actual sorting center. Since then, I have realized a couple things about this new life habit. Among them are three not-so-obvious reasons to recycle…

 1. Generate less trash

Okay, so maybe this one IS obvious. But for some reason I wasn’t prepared for the significant slash in the amount of trash that we would be sending to the landfill. We took our bin to the curb today with maybe one trash bag full. Before we started recycling, that bin would have been filled to the top with garbage! I’ve been amazed at how many of the items we used to toss on a daily basis are actually recyclable. Spaghetti sauce jars, toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, Oh my! Our recycling bin overflows long before the trash can does these days, which makes both me and the landfill smile.

2. Be aware of packaging

When you are constantly checking the underside of boxes for that little recycling symbol, you become more aware of wise environmental choices even before you buy. Items with less packaging (bulk cans or produce with little to no packaging) leave you with less to discard in the first place. The fewer boxes and wrapping you allow in your home, the fewer you must get rid of. It’s that simple. Of course the hope would be that as more and more people shun the convenience foods (read: individually-wrapped-and-over-packaged), then food conglomerates would get the message and produce less of them. I don’t see things going that way, but it’s a nice thought. Either way, recycling makes us more aware of the fact that we can limit how much trash enters our home.

3. Teach responsibility to children

Now that there are two identical white bins in the kitchen for rubbish, Caveman and I have been challenged with the task of teaching Red what goes in which bin. It will probably take awhile for him to fully catch on, but at two-and-a-half we are simply saying that only special items go in the bin in the back—trash that can be made into new things. Thankfully the great philosopher Bob the Builder hits the whole “reduce, reuse, recycle” thing pretty consistently, so he is aware of the concept. As both boys grow older, we pray that they will grasp the overall virtues of responsibility and being good stewards of the home we’ve been given.

So those are the three “side affects,” if you will, to recycling that I’ve noticed in the past several weeks. Can you think of any other benefits to recycling beyond the usual answers of protecting wildlife, saving space in landfills and overall preserving energy?

Thanks for reading!

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20 Comments
  • Jane Sasser
    March 13, 2013

    We are ardent recyclers. Maybe Colorado Springs will get with the “Recycle Rewards” program. Our garbage collection includes recycling, and we get points and goods for recycling. For example, we get $5 grocery store coupons and $2 movie discounts for our “trash.”

    Recycling also provides jobs. And just yesterday, George and I found goods at a kitchen store made from recycled plastic bottles. Plastic bottles are also used to make fleece jackets and Patagonia underwear. 🙂

  • Lois
    March 13, 2013

    Those are great reasons to motivate you to recycle. I find that my goal of not producing waste has resulted in my having to really think through what I buy wondering if I can at least first re-purpose the packaging. Recycling is great, but even that has it’s limits for example plastic can only be recycled once, which means I don’t want to be buying much plastic.

    • Evelyn
      March 14, 2013

      Lois, you are an inspiration to me! I agree that recycling is a decent second step because–you’re right–if you limit what you buy, then the repurposing of the packaging is a non-issue. Love your insight!

  • sustainablemum
    March 14, 2013

    We have reduced our rubbish to one small bag every six to eight weeks. We recycle and reuse as much as possible. We also compost some waste and burn some in our wood burning stove. We are also mindful shoppers, we do not buy anything that is over packaged even if it reduced in price.

    • Evelyn
      March 14, 2013

      Sustainable Mum, WOW! I’d LOVE to get that low on rubbish. Composting is one of my goals for this summer… but I admit, I’m very intimidated by the thought of it! I also love your thought on “even if the item is reduced in price.” There’s no reason to buy something you don’t need or don’t approve of just because it’s cheap, right?! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Al
    March 14, 2013

    You have to pay for curbside recycling?! Wow. Is that standard across the US? Most cardboard, paper, plastics and glass are collected free in the UK and France.

    • Kim
      March 14, 2013

      In our city, if you have trash collection, you must also pay for recycling pickup. This was decided by our county government. The service is more expensive, but we appreciate the convenience. And yeah, I feel good about recycling.

      • Evelyn
        March 14, 2013

        Thanks, Kim. It does feel good, doesn’t it? 🙂

    • Evelyn
      March 14, 2013

      Hi Al, waste and recycling programs are decided statewide and citywide, so it’s different all around the U.S. My parents-in-law enjoy one of the best incentive programs I’ve seen through Oak Ridge, TN. But here in Colorado Springs, yes we have to pay (a lot!) for curbside service. This is one of the ways that the UK and Europe are way ahead of the U.S. Thanks for your input!

      • Al
        March 14, 2013

        Good to know. I guess ‘free’ isn’t the right word since we’d pay for it in taxes, but I wonder how much additional financial cost it really is when there’s obviously some value in the materials. Great that you’re all doing it though even if it is a pain to sort out. One bag in 6-8 weeks is really impressive!

        • Evelyn
          March 14, 2013

          Oh, Al I’m sorry if I mislead you… WE haven’t gotten to the one-bag-in6-8-weeks point yet. Others in the comment thread are that good or run no-waste households, but we haven’t figured that out yet. I’d say we’re down to one trash bag a week.

          • Al
            March 14, 2013

            Me neither, it was a general reply to congratulate ‘sustainable mum’. 🙂

  • Cathy
    March 14, 2013

    I too was surprised that you would have to pay for recycle pickup! I live in Ontario,Canada where we have had free curbside pickup of recycling (our Blue Box program) since the early 1980’s. In the city where I live they also started a Green Box program last year to pick up compostable waste too, also at no charge. We do pay for garbage tags to go on each bag of actual garbage to be picked up, and there is a limit on the number of bags. I hardly have anything to put in the garbage anymore, so buying the garbage tags is a pretty rare thing. The tags cost $3 per bag.

  • SarahWesonga
    March 14, 2013

    it was an unpleasant surprise upon moving to WA that there is NO recycling in our apartment complex! I really thought green-leftist-naturist Washington would have that service everywhere. So my Mister and I are on the lookout for recycling that we can do in our town. This post has inspired me to look harder and be more serious about our stewardship 🙂

  • Lucy
    March 17, 2013

    The strongest motivating factor locally was when the mayor said “Folks, with the increase in population, we’re on the verge of outgrowing the landfill. We can build a new one, which means x increase in property taxes and dumping fees –” *pause for screams* “– Or we can start sorting our trash and possibly keep this one going for another few years.”

    There was a LOT of resistance at first, but now most households have three cans (mixed recycling, green waste, and landfill) and we’re participating in a pilot program for curbside glass recycling. There’s a “green” general store on the corner that accepts batteries, CFLs, and corks; the local police stations have secure dropboxes for OTC and prescription medications; the county health department has hazardous waste collection events all summer, which include electronics.

    At this point, the spouse and I have the smallest available landfill receptacle (30 gallons) and the only things that go into it are meat and dairy scraps, the occasional Papa Murphy’s pizza tray, and used cat litter: my love for the planet does not extend to vermicomposting. All of our cats are over 10 and we won’t be adopting again because of allergies, so eventually even that will be reduced.

    • Evelyn
      March 18, 2013

      Thanks for sharing, Lucy. Sounds like a great program.

  • Mandy
    March 19, 2013

    One thing I love about Korea is that Everybody recycles. It’s simply not an option Not to recycle. Since moving here, Im much more aware of packaging and waste. We even have to recycle food waste! Ledt-overs are thrown into a special food bag for local farmers to feed to animals or turn into compost. It’s a shame the rest of the US isn’t recycling. I think we should be find for not recycling. Our earth needs all the help we can give it!! Thanks for blogging about it!

    • Evelyn
      March 19, 2013

      Mandy, I knew Korea was good about that, but I’m impressed with the organized food waste too. I’d love to hear more about “living small” in S. Korea. Thanks for chipping in, sis!

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