Turning a new leaf to becoming “green” can seem overwhelming. But recycling is first step at getting your foot in the door and not making bigger carbon prints, so to speak. Diverting materials from landfills and incinerators is easier than you think, you've just got to know a few key things before you dive headfirst into the recycling bin. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Paper can decompose in under five months, but not if it’s a plastic bag! The paper entombed inside the bag won’t decompose for at least twenty years.
- Don't try and recycle anything with food or oil on it--not only is it not recyclable but it can render the other paper products around it unusable as well! We're looking at you, cheesey pizza box and used napkins...
- Wet paper is also unrecyclable-- the wet paper fibers are shorter and less valuable to paper mills.
- The average American uses seven trees a year in paper, wood, and other products made from trees. Add us all together and that amounts to about two billion trees per year.
- If we recycled just 1/10th of the paper we throw out, we could save 25 million of those trees!
- It takes up to 400 years for a plastic cup to decompose – SCARY! We will all be outlived by our discarded soda cans.
- Every year, the US produces enough plastic film to cover the state of Texas!
- The number inside the center of the Universal Recycling Symbol (URS) - the triangle usually on the bottom of the item - indicates the recyclability of the plastic item. If there is no number, then the material is considered “generically recyclable.”
- Recycling numbers 1,2, and often 5 are commonly accepted by most curbside recycling programs. Check with your local recycling agency to see which numbered materials they can use!
- Glass never wears out--no matter how old a bottle is, it can always be recycled.
- A glass bottle can take up to 1 million years to decompose in a landfill.
- Every month, we throw out enough glass bottles and jars to fill up a giant skyscraper. All of these jars are recyclable!
- It takes 500 years for an aluminum can to decay.
- A recycled aluminum can return, shiny and full, to the shelves of a grocery store a mere 90 days after they are collected by the recycling plant.
- Used aluminum beverage cans are the most recycled item in the U.S., but other types of aluminum, such as siding, gutters, car components, storm window frames, and lawn furniture can also be recycled.
- Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for two hours -- or a computer for three.
- More than 20,000,000 Hershey’s Kisses are wrapped each day using 133 square miles of aluminum foil. All that foil is recyclable, but not many people realize it...because they're distracted by the chocolate heaven in their mouths.
- According to the EPA, Americans have dumped over 9 million tons of just about anything with a thread count into landfills nationwide.
- The best way to recycle fabric is to contribute your old duds to a charitable organization.
- With an estimated 150 million cell phones sitting unused in homes and offices across the country waiting to be recycled or reused, there is the potential to offset the energy consumption of more than 291,000 households.
- By 2020, worldwide electronic waste could grow as much as 500%.
- To find e-waste recycling options near you, visit Earth911 or try E-cycling Central, a national database maintained by industry of local recycling opportunities. eRecycle.org lists additional options.
- Apple now offers a free U.S. recycling program for old computers and monitors — with the purchase of a new Mac. There is also a free iPod recycling program conducted through Apple's retail stores (earn a 10% discount).
- Other companies that offer electronic waste recycling include Dell, HP, Gateway, and Best Buy. Check their individual websites for details.
And remember: If you include some unrecyclable items in your bin, the entire batch may be re-routed to the nearest trash dump, so make sure you haven't let a straw cheesy pizza box or used kleenex in your bin!