Take a day and really look at what you throw out. You will be amazed at what could be recycled or reused. A large plastic liquid detergent container can be quickly customized for a handy scoop for bird seed; a 2-litre/quart plastic soda bottle can be fashioned into a bird feeder; empty egg cartons can be given to a local farm to reuse; and the community food bank would probably love to take those plastic grocery bags off your hands.
Returnable bottles or tins can be redeemed, in fact many non-profit groups fund certain activities through bottling drives. Canning jars can be reused with new sealing lids. These are just a few ideas on how to reduce waste, I'm certain you'll come up with many of your own.
Getting Started - What to Recycle
Getting a household recycling program started is easy and it's a good family project. After all, we can start now to train the next generation to appreciate and care for their environment. First, you should inquire about recycling in your community:
- Should recycling be left at the curb or taken to a depot?
- What items are recycled?
- How should it be packaged. Do you need 'blue' boxes or can you use your own bins?
- In how much detail are items sorted.
For instance, in some cities, plastics and glass must be sorted by the number size that is marked inside a triangle on the underside of the container. Of course, very old glass does not have any such markings and may be in a general glass category. Glass or plastic bottles may need to have the metal lids removed. Newspapers may need to be bundled in a certain way, and soda cans may need to be separate from food tins.
Understanding the details and sorting immediately, will enable you to recycle more efficiently and deliver your 'goods' to the depot or curb ready for processing. For now, we'll assume detail is limited to certain types of waste and we'll get started with a few basics.
Capacity & Convenience
Setting up an adequate bin system is key to managing your program in a time efficient manner. If you require blue boxes, these may be available through your depot, or can be purchased in varying sizes from many department stores. If blue is not a requirement, any size plastic bin, wastebasket or receptacle can be utilized. Here are some general tips to consider:
- For papers and newspapers - use a bin that is the correct size to lay papers flat, making it easier to bundle later.
- Bins that have hinged or flapstyle lids provide easy one-handed disposal of tins.
- Composting bins should have a secure lid to reduce the risk of unpleasant odors and prevent critter entry, and should be conveniently sized for locating close to your kitchen area.
- Bins should be adequately sized to handle your waste products according to how often you will be disposing of it. Containers that are uneccessarily large will require space that you could use for something else.
- Plastic is more durable than cardboard and you can wash them as required.
Delegate a bin to each class of waste with consideration given to sorting detail and capacity, and grouping them together (except for compost) will increase sorting efficiency. Keep them in a handy location. The following are a few general classes of recycling waste:
Composting is for your own benefit - to enrich your soil and provide a rich mulch for your gardens. You can compost most foods such as vegetable and fruit peelings, fish discards and other food scraps, with the exception of meat, poultry, gravy, grease or oils, unless you are using a specially formulated composting bin for all foods. Compost should be transfered daily to the outside composting pile or bin to reduce the presence of unpleasant odors in your home.
Tins and soda pop cans should be washed, flattened or crushed with an economical wall-mounted can crusher. Washing food or drink tins will reduce the risk of unwanted pests. Cardboard boxes and dry food boxes should also be flattened.
These are just the basics, you can build your recycling program to suit your lifestyle and needs. Recycling helps us look at what we consume, how to reduce the waste we generate and what we can reuse. A small 'back to the future' investment with considerable 'green' environmental benefits.