Americans create on average 200 million tons of garbage each year, with only 30% of it being recycled.
As our garbage keeps turning up in oceans and ecosystems around the world, our waste-heavy culture is more anxious than ever to start shaping up and creating less waste. The zero waste movement is growing rapidly, and I can’t help but be a bit optimistic that things might finally be turning around.
Ultimately, the goal is always to reduce, reuse, and then recycle, but sometimes, waste can be hard to avoid accumulating. (Check out our guide to hosting a less-waste trash summer barbecue.)
If you’re in an area with a poor or nonexistent recycling program, don’t despair — there are plenty of ways to lessen your burden on the landfills on your own. Here are a few ways you can go rogue and recycle anyway.
Mail-In Recycling Services
Believe it or not, there are TONS of recycling programs you can actually participate in by mail. Usually this involves an out of pocket cost, but you can also do it on a community scale to attempt to reduce the costs by dividing them among paying members of your program — more on that later.
Here are a few worth looking into:
- Preserve’s Gimme 5 Program: #5 plastics, like yogurt cups and hummus tubs, are particularly difficult to find a recycling home for, so this company has ways for both communities and individuals to mail them in. Preserve then processes the plastics themselves, turning the rendered materials into products they sell, like razors and dishes.
- TerraCycle: This mover and shaker in the movement for zero waste offers two different ways to recycle, either with free programs sponsored by specific companies, like Earth’s Best and Tide, or by mailing in your recycling by buying one of their special boxes for your specific type of waste. Terracycle specializes in recycling hard to recycle materials, and the range is endless, from clothing, even to cigarette butts.
- Battery Solutions: Batteries are more than just waste — once they start to deteriorate, they’re hazardous to the environment. Companies like Battery Solutions allow you to mail in everything from AAs to lithium ion batteries to recycle.
- EasyPak: Fluorescent lights can be hazardous to both humans and the environment when broken, thanks to the mercury contained in their tubes. Thankfully, companies like EasyPak are making it simple to get them safely out of harm’s way when their lifespans are over. You can also recycle electronics with this company’s mail-in recycling program.
Look for Local Recycling Drop Off Centers
It may not always be a community recycling center, but many businesses offer opportunities to recycle materials. Aside from the plastic bag recycling bins often found in front of grocery stores, some steel manufacturing facilities offer programs that will pay you for the cans you bring in.
If you’re not sure where to start, use this cool search feature on Earth911 to pull up any kind of place to recycle anything in your area.
Start Your Own Recycling Program
If you live in a small town, neighborhood, or community, it might make sense to look into setting up a community recycling program on your own. There are plenty of logistics to consider, so get organized with a group of like-minded people, and see if you can make it work.
Here are a few things you’ll want to figure out:
- What you’ll want to recycle
- How often you’ll be collecting the recycling
- How you will haul it to recycling locations (you might need a trailer)
- Job assignments: Who will sort, who will haul, and who will administrate?
- How to get the word out
- How much the program will cost, and where the money will come from
It might sound like a daunting task, but it’s definitely not impossible, and with a great team of influencers and people that you can count on to show up every week, you’ll move your community that much closer to producing less waste.
Do you have a recycling program you participate in? Continue the conversation on Facebook and Instagram with @AvocadoMattress and #AvocadoGreenMagazine.