The slogan, Reduce Reuse and Recycle, has been around for decades, and by now many Americans have grown up with this mindset. The slogan first came about in the 1970s as a way to promote low-waste lifestyles after WWII influenced large amounts of stockpiling. Recycling often seems like the go-to practice, however it’s best to first reduce your consumption to only necessary purchases or reuse items until they no longer serve a purpose. Typically, items can only be recycled 2-3 times before the material quality breaks down too much. But, if you find that recycling is the only option, here are some Dos and Don’ts to ensure a correct recycling practice!
- Use an item as many times as possible before recycling
As stated before, recycling should remain your last option because of all the risks that may lead a recyclable to a landfill. Reusing an item prolongs its life and reduces the need to purchase additional wasteful products.
- Rinse off recyclables before disposal
Cleaning your recycle containers is SO important. When a dirty container makes its way into your recyclable bin, it contaminates the whole batch which can then cause your recyclables to be thrown into a landfill. However, sometimes the water waste outweighs the recycling aspect, especially if you live in an area with freshwater scarcity. So before using all that pressurized hot water to clean out your pesky peanut butter jars, consider its worth.
- Separate your recyclables
Curbside recycling programs create an easy way to recycle from home, but you must know what type of recyclables your town accepts. For example, if you live in the Town of Brookhaven, you can only recycle plastics #1 and #2, and paper/cardboard. You cannot combine plastic and paper recycling, so be sure to store these in two separate bins. The group Green Inside and Out composed a chart of the recyclable items in towns throughout Long Island, you can find that here.
- Research your town’s recycling schedule
If you don’t know the correct days for recycling pickup, you could defeat the purpose of separating your recyclables in the first place. Luckily, you can find your town’s recycling schedule by a quick Google search. To stay even more proactive, print it out and hang it on your fridge as a reminder.
While most plastic bottles are safe to recycle, their lids are NOT. Make sure to toss the lids and take the labels off!
- Be a wishful recycler
By this we mean, don’t place plastic in the recycling bin in hopes that it can be recycled. You should only recycle items you’re sure of, otherwise the entire bin will go to waste.
- Store paper recyclables in a wet place
Long Island has seen no shortage of snow this winter! Storing recyclables outdoors definitely makes more room indoors, but when your cardboard gets wet, either by keeping it outdoors or perhaps an accidental spill, it can no longer be recycled. Not only will water weaken the value of the material but wet cardboard often clogs the sorting machine at recycling facilities.
- Throw out items that can’t get recycled curbside
Curbside recycling has its limitations, but that doesn’t mean to toss material that you can’t recycle at home. Most plastic bags can’t be recycled at home, so you can simply recycle these at your local grocery store, and when it comes to electronic waste (E-waste) most towns or Best Buys accept E-waste drop offs!
By Miranda Gonzales, Long Island Pine Barrens Society