A Refresher on Recycling

I love listening to podcasts.

I subscribe to many covering a variety of topic areas. I listen while on long walks with my dog each morning. I download episodes and listen in the car. I even listen when making dinner each evening.

Some are funny such as “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me,” so I rarely miss their weekly recording. Another one I enjoy, “How I Built This” focuses on entrepreneurs and how they built their mega-successful businesses. Some are short. Some are consistently longer like “This American Life” that really digs into a subject area.

I also subscribe to podcasts that offer insights in areas that interest me such as marketing, grammar, minimalism, and even Trader Joe’s! If there’s a topic area that interests you, there’s a podcast out there for you. NAPO even recently launched a new series featuring organization and productivity tips.

Stuff You Should Know

SYSK Hosts: Josh and Chuck

One of my personal favorites is “Stuff You Should Know.” The hosts of this podcast, Josh and Chuck, tackle thought-provoking and sometimes random topics and uncover details in an organized and entertaining manner.

Earlier this summer they tackled the topic of Recycling. It wasn’t the first time they covered this topic. The episode’s title: “Recycling Update: How’s it Going?”

Among other things, they discussed in depth the impact new regulations put in place by China – dubbed “China National Sword” – are having on recycling programs across the United States. To illustrate the impact of China’s new policies, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. International Trade Commission, in January 2017 alone, the United States exported more than 208,000 metric tons of mixed paper and nearly 75,000 metric tons of scrap plastic to China.

As of January this year, China accepted only 11,000 metric tons of mixed paper and 5,000 metric tons of plastic scrap.

Obviously, the impact of these new restrictions is dramatic.

Local communities are scrambling for new solutions and already are feeling the pinch. In Massachusetts, the Department of Environmental Protection is working with local communities to mitigate the impact wherever possible. Along with relaxing some regulations, they are offering tools and resources local communities can use to educate the public about proper recycling practices.

What can we do?

The reality is, support for local recycling starts long before our trash reaches our curb for pickup. It starts by putting processes in place inside our homes and offices to ensure we are recycling correctly (not to mention the need to rethink how goods that we buy are packaged before they even reach our homes and offices. But that is a discussion for another day).

I, like most of you, like to think of myself as an avid recycler. I take it very seriously. But what I learned recently is that I needed to take a step back and review my recycling process.

Approved Recycling ListFirst, I contacted my trash removal company to request a list including specific details about what they will recycle. If your town handles trash removal for you, they will most likely have a list as well.

Second, I printed two copies of the list so I can easily refer to it. One copy I keep in the kitchen where we produce the majority of our recyclable waste. The other copy I posted in my garage (much to my husband’s dismay), so we can both check it quickly, before throwing items in our bins.

Foam that can be recycled

Does your community allow you to recycle this?

Just last night I had a question about whether foam packaging can be recycled. I was happy to learn, by referring to my handy new list, that in my town it is!  I think previously I always just tossed it in the trash.

Most importantly, we all need to avoid becoming an “aspirational recycler.” This happens when we want things, or erroneously think something is recyclable, and without hesitation just toss it in the recycling bin.

It just feels better than throwing the item in the trash. Right?

But, that single item such as a plastic bag, greasy pizza box, or single-use coffee cup with a thin layer of leak-proof polyethylene on the inside, could be contaminating your entire batch of recycling.

My revised recycling motto is – when in doubt, it’s better to throw it out.

What is your recycling process in your home and in the office?
Do you need to take a step back and rethink how you prepare your waste for successful recycling in your local community?

Share your ideas (and your favorite podcasts) in the comment section below.

Ta-Da Tip Of The Month

While researching this newsletter, I came across some terrific resources to share with you.

And of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t site the link to the “Stuff You Should Know” podcast that motivated me to review my recycling practices in the first place. Ta-Da!


6 comments to A Refresher on Recycling

  • Janice

    SO interesting, Diana! Thank you for sharing this. I read a few of the additional resources you offered and it turns out I am indeed a bit of an aspirational recycler….time to revisit my town’s guidelines and pay more attention. Great post.

    • Thank you for the kind words, Janice. When I learned about these new restrictions I felt compelled to learn more. I am so happy to hear that you found the information useful and that you plan on reviewing your current approach to recycling. Let me know what you find out.

  • Thanks for the insight on recycling. I’m happy to say that I take recycling serious. My town makes it very easy to do so and since I live fairly close to the recycling center, anything that I cannot through into the recycling bin, I can drop off. I must say,
    downsizing and having no children at home has made it a much easier task.

  • Laura

    Thank you for this information Diana! Although I do recycle, I see that I need to make an effort in purchasing items that are made with recycled materials. Otherwise…. what’s the point! Honestly, I never look at a container’s label before I toss it into my grocery cart. Time to get that right. The additional links you attached are super helpful. Great post.

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