The Truth About Recycling

July 21, 2019

The Truth About Recycling

It's no new news that our planet is spiraling towards an impending eco-disaster. This isn't entirely the fault of our generation, but an accumulation of decades of neglect and indifference. As expected, after all these years the planet has finally decided that it's time to fight back. We watch sea levels rise, temperatures reach record highs, and creatures of our childhood have started disappearing. 

A major way we can help salvage the situation is by cutting down on our individual negative impacts on the environmentRecycling is a great first step, but it is important to know that not everything we throw in the green container actually gets recycled. Reducing our consumables and throw away items is ultimately the direction we should work towards.

Unfortunately, we live in a day and age of planned obsolescence and most items are manufactured with the intent to break and be thrown away, so that we can buy more and spend more. My best advice towards this (and this was difficult for me to incorporate into my own life) is to save your money. Instead of buying quick and cheap, buy products of quality that are meant to last. For example, cut out those trips to Ikea and save your money for home goods and furniture that will last past your next move. Look for real wood instead of particleboard, and purchase handmade items by local craftsmen. I understand that when we need a bookshelf now, its difficult not to buy that cute inexpensive piece of Target furniture, its good enough for now-right? Keep in mind, this cute inexpensive piece of furniture will inevitably fall apart sooner than later and will take up space in a land fill, taking hundreds of years to degrade. Changing this habit was adjustment for me, but I have found that Facebook marketplace, online consignment auctions and  Craigslist are excellent resources for buying quality goods at low prices.

Now- I digress- let's get some perspective and look at some statistics in regards to plastic consumables. 

  • Over the last ten years, we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century.
  • 50 percent of the plastic we use, we use just once and throw away.
  • The average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic per year.
  • It takes 500-1,000 years for plastic to degrade.
  • Plastic constitutes approximately 90 percent of all trash floating on the ocean's surface, with 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile.
  • One million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans.
  • The EPA estimates that 75% of the American waste stream is recyclable, but we only recycle about 30% of it.

Why Some Items Can't Be Recycled

Some items generally believed to be recyclable actually aren't for different reasons. Here are a few items you should keep out of the recycling bin.

  • Most take out containers can't be recycled because of the potential of the grease they contain & contaminate other recycled materials (most can be composted though!).
  • Plastic grocery bags are generally not recyclable because of their tendency to get caught in machine parts and cause potential damage.
  • Plastic bottle caps are made from polypropylene or plastic #5, which can't be recycled.
  • Styrofoam can neither be recycled nor does it biodegrade and you should not use these types of products.
  • Napkins, paper towels, and tissue are generally considered too contaminated to recycle (most can be composted though!).
  • Paper that is laminated or has a plastic coating, such as a frozen food box, cannot be recycled because the coating prevents the fibers from being broken down properly during the recycling process.      


I may not be around in 100 years, but my grandchildren will be. If we all make a small change in our daily habits, it might be a small step, but its a step in the right direction.



Simple Facts


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