We've all heard of the three R's: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, but how many of us actually do any of the three? Chances are that most people do not participate, at the very least, in weekly curbside recycling. On the day set aside for curbside recycling take a walk around your neighborhood and see what's being recycled. Most likely, you'll find a handful of folks who have separated plastics, and aluminum cans. However, you will also find far more than a handful of folks with plastics, cans, clothing, paper, glass, junk mail and lawn clippings bagged and set out with the trash. People have a variety of reasons for avoiding recycling: "I don't have the time" or "It’s inconvenient." We live in a modern society in which the future of the humanity and the resources of the planet do not seem to enter the thoughts of most citizens. No matter how often the dwindling resources are pointed out and discussed in on television, radio, books, and the Internet, people assume that the subject is hype. At that rate the planet Earth is going we will have completely destroyed the Ozone layer by 2025, used most of our natural gas resources, and have no landfill space available. Currently, there is more landfill (garbage dumps) space per square mile than there are farms.
If each household practices the three R's, we might actually have a chance at saving the planet Earth. There are simple steps to take to reduce what we use, reuse what we have, and recycle what we no longer use. Whether a person lives in a cramped city apartment, townhouse, trailer, or suburban home, she/he can still make strides in the movement to reduce household waste, hence contributing to the future of all people.
The easiest way to go about reducing waste is to learn how to sort, organize and either reuse, or recycle it.
First, set aside a space in your garage, basement, spare room or closet, or in an outdoor shed. Next purchase 7 plastic storage containers with lids. You can find the containers at any home improvement, grocery or department store as inexpensively as $5.99. The plastic containers will be used to store:
(1) Plastic containers labeled #1 and/or #2
(2) Hazardous Waste-Batteries, old paint and chemicals
(3) Textiles-old clothing, and material
(4) Mixed Paper (greeting cards, newspaper, notebook or office paper)
(5) Glass bottles (clear or dark)
(6) Plastic grocery bags
(7) Aluminum cans
Anytime one of the above items is used, rinse the item (except for Hazardous Waste, paper and plastic grocery bags) and place it in the container. Be sure to keep the lid on the container; this will prevent moths, and odor from escaping, as well as keeping children, pets and critters out of the containers. Check with your city's sanitation department to see which curbside recycling the city will pick up. Most likely the city where you live will at least pick up aluminum and mixed paper. If not, ask the sanitation department for information regarding neighborhood-recycling programs.
Neighborhood recycling programs generally designate a spot where you can drop off recycling items, usually once a month, that are not included with your curbside recycling. Many grocery stores participate in the recycling of used plastic grocery bags. Check with your local grocer. You can minimize the amount of your recycling by purchasing goods that are not wasteful in the packaging of the product. Buy foods in bulk rather than in individual boxes or containers. Stay away from packaged convenience foods as they are often wrapped packaged in a plastic container, then wrapped in plastic, and boxed. This is more packaging than product! Do not purchase disposable items such as one-use cameras, diapers, or plug in air fresheners. Landfills are already filled to the brim with these items; and they take several hundred years to biodegrade.
Reuse what you can. If you purchase produce, don't put the items in small individual plastic bags. If you do use the plastic bags, put them into the plastic bag-recycling container, and reuse them the next time you go grocery shopping. Do the same with the plastic grocery shopping bags. Reuse them each time you grocery shop. Some grocery shops will even give you 2-3 cents if your reuse a bag. If you are purchasing only 1-2 items, tell the cashier that you do not need a bag. Never buy plastic bags--you already get them for free at the grocery store. Use them as garbage bags.
Food scraps and lawn clippings are not garbage, they are organic matter that should be composted and not set out in plastic bags with the trash. Many people think that they cannot compost because they haven't got a yard. A yard is not necessary for composting. A person living in a city apartment can effectively compost using 2 buckets. For people with any size yard--you only need 2-3 ft. in which to compost. There are many complicated methods for composting--mostly to rapidly promote the decay process. However, composting need not be complicated. All you need to do is to keep a small bucket in the kitchen for food scraps; egg shells, coffee grinds, fruit and vegetable peels, and so forth. Once a day, empty the bucket into your designated area and cover with soil. Each day you add another layer of scraps and soil. After 3-4 days, you mix it together with a shovel, and cover it with a layer of soil. It's that simple. After a week or two you've got a collection of nice dark brown soil. This is the organic soil that lawn and gardening stores sell for a hefty profit. Why pay someone for the soil, when you can make it for free? Spread the soil over your garden, lawn or yard. City dwellers need only to pour food scraps into a bucket of soil, and add layers of food and soil. Every other day mix and turn, and scoop out the dark soil with a small shovel and store in a second bucket. Save the soil for patio plants, or a community garden. Lawn clippings, weeds and branches also go into the composting pile.
If you change your own motor oil, never put motor oil into the trash, and NEVER pour the oil into a rain gutter; rain gutters run off directly into the oceans and rivers. More people each year improperly dispose of motor oil and kill wildlife than the entire spill from the Exxon Valdez. Call 1-800-Motoroil and ask for the directions to the nearest motor oil recycling location in your area. You can reduce the amount of your junk mail that you would recycle as mixed paper. Simply write to the Direct Marketing Association at: DMA Mail Preference Service
Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008
Include your name, address and zip code. Ask to be removed from the Direct Marketing mailing list. In 90 days, your junk mail will decrease 75%.
Never put used auto parts, appliances, or computer parts out with the trash. These items are not trash. Take them to the nearest junkyard, or salvage shop. You can also go to the web site: WWW.recycle.net and view lists of people who will gladly take your:
Used Auto Parts
Used Computer Parts
Used Laser and Ink Jet Cartridges
Used Radio Equipment
Many people gather metals and broken appliances and sell them in bulk to salvage shops, while other people dismantle appliances and media equipment and repair them. Donate old clothing, and if it is damaged to the point where it is not able to be worn, cut the material into squares that you can use as rags, thus eliminating paper products such as paper towels and table napkins.
So, you see, it is not difficult to practice the three R's. It takes 15 minutes of planing, but a lifetime of follow up. Each person must commit to doing her/his share in keeping the planet free from abuse. Make the commitment and stick to it. After all, the earth doesn't belong to humankind; rather, humankind belongs to the Earth.