Updated: Mar 15
“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.” - Mister Rogers
Plastic is almost unavoidable in today’s world. Plastic is everywhere and it impacts every aspect of our environment, from water, air, wildlife, to our own well-being and everything else in between. We are constantly told we need to recycle our plastics. As a society, we are doing our best to recycle properly.
What if you are one of many who do not have curbside recycling available to you? Are there other options besides just trash or recycle?
Let’s go beyond recycling: Think outside the box. Think beyond the bin.
Many Kinds of Recyclable Material
If you have ever wondered what the number inside the recycling symbol means, it is called the ‘resin identifier’ and tells what type of recyclable material it is. These number identifiers are important, because different types of materials are recycled in different ways – some can’t be recycled at all. Check out the chart at the bottom of the blog post for a more in-depth comparison of what those identifiers really mean. Most commonly, plastics are made of petroleum; but some plastics are made from plants! There are bio-plastics made from several sources like sugarcane, algae, food waste, corn and other vegetables, and many others. Recycling includes more materials than just petroleum-based plastics, but also materials such as metal, glass, paper, cardboard, and fabrics. Check with your local recycling center programs to know what types of recycling materials are accepted in your neighborhood.
Recycling Can Decrease Quality
Plastic cannot be recycled forever. Recycling plastic has limits. Most typical plastics can only be recycled two or three times before they cannot be recycled or used again. On the other hand, metal and glass can be recycled indefinitely without degrading quality or purity! In addition, recycling metal and glass do not require new raw material added in the recycling process; which plastic recycling requires. Not to mention, products made of metal are far more durable than products made of plastic. If you have the option to avoid products made of plastic, try to choose durable long-lasting materials instead – like glass, metal, ceramic, stone, wood, or otherwise plant-based. Products made of these more durable materials are likely to last longer or they may have more than one use compared to plastic products. If you don’t have curbside recycling at your house or apartment, products that can be reused or repurposed take away the guilt of not recycling.
"Buy less, choose well, make it last." - Vivienne Westwood
Reduce, Reuse, Refurbish
Items can be transformed into new uses easily. Reuse what you already have at home and be creative! I have been fooled countless times by cookie tins that had sewing kits stashed inside the metal tin instead of real cookies. Old ripped towels or t-shirts make great cleaning rags. Jars from jam, pickles, pasta sauce, and more; can be used as drinking glasses, flower vases, food storage containers, and many other things. Old tires can be used for flower pots or even turned into furniture. Empty prescription bottles work well for storing small items like buttons and bobby pins. Old pallets can be repurposed into trendy patio furniture and used for gardening and landscaping. Think beyond just trash or recycling as your only options. How else could you use the items you already have?
Using repurposed items can really add up to big waste reductions. How much waste can one person really avoid? Check out the graphics below for easy creative ways to avoid plastic waste.
Do you have a favorite sustainable swap or ‘upcycling’ idea?
Please share it with us!
Hey Kids! Play a fun online game to help the octopus keep plastic waste out of the water.
- Click here to play the Coral Greef Game -
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