The 6 R’s of Green Living – Part 5: Recycle

It’s likely you know and love the chant “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” Yet, many green advocates are calling for us to add three additional R’s to the list.   The new slogan looks like this. In this blog post series we’re introducing the new R’s, as well as reviewing the old ones.  Here are the links to the first 4 parts: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse (and Upcycle), Repair.

6 Rs Recycle

Part 5: Recycle

Recycling is important, but what is recycling?

Most of the time, when people use the word ‘recycling’ they may mean one of two things.

  1. The materials like cardboard, paper, glass, plastic, and metal cans set out on the curbside each week.
  2. The act of throwing that cardboard, paper, glass, plastic or metal into a recycling bin.

Recycling can also have a lot of other once you start learning more.  Names like: solid waste – a term the EPA uses.  It could be called feedstock by companies that will buy bulk paper and plastic to turn into other things.

But, at its most basic the EPA, (Environmental Protection Agency), an agency set up to protect human health and environment says –

Recycling is the process of collecting and processing materials that would otherwise be thrown away as trash and turning them into new products.

The recycling you set out on your curb, like the container of a past meal or byproduct of a big move, is starting the first step of a long journey to turn them into new products.

What is this journey like, and why take it?

The recycling process starts when you collect your cardboard, paper, plastic, and leave it in a container on your curb.  It’s important to clean your recyclables! Rinse out the tomato puree cans, dump out your leftover soda.  This food has no place in the recycling machinery.

Salem’s new trash and recycling hauler – Waste Management – has changed our recycling to a SINGLE STREAM system. This means that you do not need to sort your containers from your paper, just put it all in your recycling bin.  (For other information about Salem’s new hauler, click here).

PLASTIC BAGS STILL CANNOT BE RECYCLED CURBSIDE.  Do not bag your recyclables.  If you bag your cans and bottles in a plastic bag, it is very likely that these will get thrown into the trash, because plastic bags CANNOT go through recycling machinery.

Please continue to set out the materials on the curb in a way that is easily identifiable to haulers.

After the materials are picked up, they go to an MRF (Materials Recycling Facility), Salem’s recycling will be headed in Billerica.  From here, the materials are sorted into different types, such as paper, glass, or metal.  Once they are sorted, they can be sold, and used as a resource for manufacturing.

Why recycle?  Why not just keep mining new materials?

Here is where energy is saved, and the environment is protected.  For example, glass bottles. There are a “ton of natural resources saved for every ton of glass recycled.”   In fact, glass bottles can be recycled virtually forever, with negligible energy expenditure.

Recycling also, of course, creates jobs.

Recycling can involve more than just the curbside collection.  It can extend to purchasing second-hand objects from thrift stores or yardsales.  It can be swapping something for free on Craigslist, Facebook, or Freecyle. (This can able be re-use)   All these forms of recycling keep objects from being discarded with plenty of value still in them.

And who knows, maybe the plastic you’re recycling will be turned into a bench one day.

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Comments?  Feel free to add them to our facebook page, and be sure to share this post with your friends.

For more information, or to play a fun game, check out the website, I want to be recycled, created by Keep America Beautiful.

This post was written by Beth Melillo, a member of the Salem Recycles Committee, and an avid recycler!  Beth loves to learn new things she can recycle, as well as practice the other R’s as well.