- Editor’s Note: This article is part of a new series of recycling stories from Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland. Got a question? Contact Jarland at 630-208-3841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
When it comes to waste, I find that many people don’t want to think about it. I am told again and again that they want it to be easy, convenient and free to throw away (or recycle) anything they may want to discard.
But as environmental and social justice activist Julia Butterfly Hill says, “There is no such thing” as Away. We are filling up our landfills without a lot of thought around the long-term effects of this cultural behavior. Recycling is a good practice, and there is no doubt that it is a key to reducing our waste. But I have been in this industry long enough to know that the solution to the issue does not lay entirely in the recycling system.”
Our waste and our purchases are both something we have to start thinking about.
ReThink, Reduce, Reuse …
ReThink, Reduce, Reuse, and then recycle, in that order.
Starting with the bigger picture, “trash” or discards of any kind, including recycling, are a part of a larger system, a cycle if you will, which includes along its arch the point at which you purchase your products. Before that, it includes the mining or harvesting of materials from the earth, a design and manufacturing stage, shipping, marketing and sales.
That’s where each of us come in. The root of the problem of waste is consumerism — our demand for faster, more convenient and cheaper service (which includes a lot of packaging for food and beverages), and the rather thoughtless drive for next new best thing. Also, planned obsolescence is a huge contributor to the growing waste stream.
The solution lies with each and every person RETHINKING our purchases, and reducing our consumption of materials.
How To Minimize Waste
First, stop and think before you buy something: “Do I really need this?” “Is there a similar product with less garbage packaging?” “Can I repair the old one?” “Can I buy it used instead of new?” If buying new, get the quality product that will last multiple times longer.
Strive to live a more minimalistic life. That’s a hard one, and I’m sure that this little article will not change anyone’s ways in that regard, but I challenge you to consider in what small ways you might reduce the sheer number of things you possess. And stop adding to them all the time!
We can also avoid garbage by endeavoring to only buy things with recyclable (or no) packaging. That’s a real challenge as well.
Aim for zero waste and see how close you can get. Use your own cup for coffee, use reusable grocery bags, use cloth napkins and towels, compost your food scraps and throw in any soiled napkins, tissues or paper towels.
It’s not easy being green, but it can be done despite market forces against it.
Closing The Loop
You may have heard of the term “closing the loop” in regard to recycling.
Closed loop recycling is a production system in which the waste or byproduct of one process or product is used in making another product. For example, recycling newspaper to make the paperboard used to create tissue boxes.
Materials are mined or harvested, products are manufactured, shipped, purchased, used, and then hopefully are able to be recycled into something new. But there is one more element to truly closing the loop.
Buy Recycled And Recyclable!
The final link in this chain is the point at which you buy recycled products. Look at your products and their packaging to see if they are made of recycled content!
Also make sure that they are recyclable at the end of their use! Look for products with the How2Recycle label.