This post was sponsored by OCRRA as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.
We hear news all the time about climate change and environmental issues. It is easy to be overwhelmed and feel like these things are out of our control and we can’t make a difference and change the world. But while we can’t change things on a global level there are simple actions we can take that will have a positive effect on our homes and our communities. Recycling is one of those things, when you know the facts about recycling and do it correctly.
Here in Onondaga county recycling is manage by OCRRA, a not-for-profit public benefit corporation. Their motto is “Save the World a Little Each Day” which resonates with me because that is something I can do. Small, easy actions that I can incorporate into my busy life and my kids’ busy lives can make a difference.
Recycling has become a regular part of my family’s lives. We all get involved in rinsing out recyclables and putting them in our blue bin. Even my dog gets involved, although he is more interested in taking things out of the blue bin and scattering them all over the living room! My children have grown up learning about recycling. Taking recycle bins down to the curb has been regular chores for my kids since they were old enough to help. They complain when it is snowing or raining, but they still do it because they understand it is important for the environment. For them recycling is automatic and a normal part of their lives.
And yet are still lots of misconceptions surrounding recycling. Even though most people try to recycle not everyone is doing it right. We all want to do our part but some of the myths that surround recycling make it less effective. Here are some of the myths and facts about recycling.
Fact: Recycling works
Recycling conserves natural resources. Materials like aluminum and paper can be recycled multiple times with little loss of quality. Recycling also reduces litter and supports jobs in our community. Schools, businesses and residents recycle more than half of the waste we produce – which is a huge positive for the environment. OCRRA estimates that since 1990 our community has kept billion pounds of material out of the trash, which is enough to fill the Carrier Dome 21 times. We need to build on this success and keep recycling!
Myth: Recycled materials are just thrown out by trash haulers
There have been national media reports of this happening, but it is not happening here in Onondaga county. The material that you put in your blue bin is recycled, which is why it is so important to put the right materials in the bin.
Fact: There are right and wrong ways to recycle
It is very important that you only put things in your blue bin that can actually be recycled. Wish-cycling has become a problem with curbside recycling. This is when an overzealous recycler puts something in the blue bin that they think should be recycled, even though it can’t be.
I’ve seen this with my kids. They will put something in the recycle bin because is “seems” recyclable. And when I correct them and take it out, they argue with me because all teens love to argue with their mom! Plastic berry cartons and Styrofoam egg cartons are two things we have argued over – and neither one can be recycled by OCRRA, no matter how recyclable they look to a 17 year old.
There is a difference between things that are theoretically recyclable and things that are actually recyclable. When my kids put something in the recycle bin that shouldn’t be there they think they are helping, but they are making recycling more difficult. Experts estimate that in some areas as much as 25% of things in the recycle bin shouldn’t be there.
Fact: Wish cycling hurts our efforts
Wish cycling means that recyclers like OCRRA waste time and money sorting out things that should be in the trash. Plus some of these things, like plastic grocery bags, can be recycled, just not in your bin. All the local grocery and drug stores have a spot to recycle plastic bags right up front. If you put plastic grocery bags in your bin it makes OCRRA’s job harder and it keeps the bags from being recycled. Additionally, materials like plastic bags can become caught in OCRRA’s equipment and cause damage, costing even more time and money.
Myth: I read up on what was recyclable a few years ago, so I know I’m doing it right
The rules about what can be recycled have changed over the years. There are a few broad categories such as cardboard, junk mail, plastic bottles and plastic dairy tubs that are always recyclable. If you have something that doesn’t fit into one of those categories, you need to check the rules.
But what if you aren’t sure and you don’t have time to look up this information? It happens! I’ve been there – standing in the kitchen with a container, debating about whether it goes in the garbage or the blue bin while the kids or the dogs demand my attention. The rule to remember is if you aren’t sure and don’t have time to check just throw it out, don’t guess. Guessing leads to wish-cycling.
Fact: The cleaner our recycling stream is the more valuable it is
A clean recycling stream doesn’t just mean rinsing out food containers before you put them in the bin – although you should still do that. It means a recycling stream without extra non-recyclable items. You can find OCRRA’s full list of recycling rules here. The website breaks down all the details for you – things you can put in the blue bin, things you can recycle another way, and things that should be discarded. Check it out and make sure you are following the rules!
Fact: Reducing waste and reusing things are as important as recycling
Recycling is important, but reducing the amount of things your family uses, especially plastic products, will also help the environment. Taking plastic bags back to the store for recycling is great, but even better is taking reusable bags to the store and not having the bags in the first place.
Similarly finding alternative uses for things that can’t be recycled by upcycling them or repurposing them helps. My teens love crafty projects, so they love doing this. This spring we have planted herbs in plastic berry containers, which make great little mini-greenhouses for starting seeds. With a little creativity you can reuse many things!
Fact: OCRRA makes recycling easier
OCRRA provides tools to help families change the world every day. The OCRRA website is not just for finding out if something can be placed in the blue bin. They have a searchable database that tells you how to recycle many other things. You can use the database to find out how to recycle batteries, or where old cell phones can be dropped off or how you can recycle a broken tv.
They also offer a program for dropping off household toxins. If you are spring cleaning your garage or basement you are bound to find things that you can’t just put in the garbage. Last year I took a big box of old pool chemicals, garden fertilizer and wood stain to the household toxin drop off. It was quick and easy, and I safely got rid of stuff I was never going to use again.
They also have a whole education section on their website with free games and videos. While these are very useful for homeschoolers they are fun for all kids. The games are cute and designed to teach students about recycling, waste reduction and composting. Teaching kids the importance of recycling when they are young will benefit everyone.
So check out the OCRRA website, learn the facts about the recycling and keep recycling!