Recycling: A Primer

Friday, February 13, 2009

Posted by Suganya

‘Going Green’ seems to be the buzz these days. Looking around, one could notice that a growing number of companies and individuals are embracing practices that are safer to the environment. Even though this movement has gained momentum, we still have a long road ahead. A huge percentage of people still think going green is a lot of work. In reality, its a lot simple. With a few small changes, you would be surprised how achievable this feat is. Of course, you cannot make all the changes in one day. But baby steps is all it takes to get the ball rolling.

Greener living starts with the practice of “three R’s” – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Reduce what you use, reuse what you can and then recycle. Practices like buying in bulk, reusing grocery totes instead of plastic bags, avoiding disposable products like paper cups, paper towels, are few of the practices to reduce and reuse.

When it comes to recycling, there is a lot of information to be gone through, that you may be left with a lot of questions. What are those recycling numbers? Why do I need to sort my recyclables? Why wouldn’t my recycling service accept certain products? Is recycling so confusing that you wouldn’t really bother? Fear not, it isn’t that complicated.

Theoretically, it is possible to recycle much of the household waste. But practically what is recyclable is dictated by your community recycling service. Glass, aluminum, paper, and plastic are all recyclable. When it comes to plastics though, they have to be sorted based on the type of resin its made of. To determine, look for the three arrow symbol, called ‘chasing arrows’ on most plastic containers. The numbers inside the arrows are the codes that the industry uses to distinguish the resin. Lower numbers are easier to recycle, but some recycling facilities accept higher numbers too. This is what the numbers mean and some places where they are used.

1 - Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET, PETE) - Clear sturdy plastic used in drink bottles and food containers
2 - High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) - Milk containers, detergents and cleaning supplies
3 - Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) - Clamshells, blister packs, piping, shower curtains
4 - Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE) - Grocery bags, squeezable bottles, wrapping films
5 - Polypropylene (PP) - Yogurt containers, bottle caps, prescription bottles, microwavable containers like Tupperware
6 - Polystyrene (PS) - Styrofoam items such as coffee cups, packing peanuts
7 - Other - Made with a resin other than the six listed above.

Find out what kind of plastics your community recycles and sort accordingly. Previously, you may require to sort glass, aluminum, paper and plastics (the accepted codes). But with a new program called ‘single-stream recycling’, everything goes into one container.

If your community doesn’t have curb-side recycling pickup, talk/write to the appropriate individuals. With enough people requesting for such services, they may consider doing it.If you are looking for incentives to motivate your friends and neighbors, there is program called RecycleBank that offers reward points for the amount of recycled wastes. These points can be redeemed with many of the organizations they have partnered with. Meanwhile, you can find out where the nearest recycling centers are in your area from this directory. Call ahead to find out what they recycle. The center that I visit, offers free recycling to non-commercial wastes, once a week. An identification or water bill to prove that you are a resident, is what they ask for.

Try employing a few of the above said steps everyday. Once it becomes a routine you would hardly fell that its an extra work. If you are already doing all of these, pat yourselves on the back. But don’t stop there. Find out what more you can do. The world wide web has a wealth of information to go green and save our beautiful blue Planet Earth.

These are some of the links to learn more about green living. The facilities given in these links may be available only for a particular region. If you know of other useful links on green living, pertaining to other regions, please leave them as comments. It will be mighty useful for our readers living across the globe.

This post was written by Suganya

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Lovely informative article. I wish we had such clear setups and collection centers in India. Sometimes I'm afraid of giving off plastic and glass items (such as bottles) to the local garbage collector for fear of it being misused in other nefarious activities. I do all that I can where reusing and reducing is concerned.

Deepika said...
February 13, 2009 at 3:01:00 PM GMT+1  

Yes, great article. India has a long way to go, but it's heartening to see my kids learning young at school.I reuse my old milk bags (we get milk in sturdy plastic bags) & use them to store cookie dough, or for piping bags.I donot take plastic bags from shops, as far as possible. I always dry my laundry in the sun...& hope that my carbon footprint becomes smaller & smaller in time. The kids hear from me all the time...thanks for adressing an important issue as this one!

Deeba PAB said...
February 14, 2009 at 12:12:00 PM GMT+1  

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