Reusing + Recycling = Less Waste. And that's a good thing. The amount of solid waste produced by Americans is staggering. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, residents, businesses and institutions produced more than 245 million tons of trash in 2005. That is approximately 4.5 pounds of waste per person per day.
Recycling and reusing products are two simple, yet highly effective ways, to reduce the waste filling our landfills. And saving space in our landfills is just a small benefit of waste reduction activities. Recycling and reusing materials helps the economy, the community and the environment as well.
According to Indiana's 2001 Recycling Economic Information report, our state is reducing waste while adding significantly to our economy. According to its findings on Indiana's recycling/reusing industry:
Recycling not only boosts the economy but also benefits the environment. Recycling prevents the emission of many greenhouse gases and water pollutants, saves energy and supplies valuable raw materials to industry. That is why Indiana is encouraging its citizens to recycle and reuse items as much as they can.
The EPA describes recycling as a closed-loop cycle with a three part process:
Collection and Processing - Communities collect recyclables in a number of ways. Regardless of the collection method, the recyclables are sorted and prepared into raw materials for manufacturing at a materials recovery facility. Here they are bought and sold with prices fluctuating with the market.
Manufacturing - Once purchased, the recycled materials are manufactured into new products with total or partial recycled content. Almost every household may find an item that contains recycled materials such as paper towels, drink containers and steel cans. Recovered materials are also responsible for some of the more innovative products made today. For example, recycled glass is made into roadway asphalt and sand.
Purchasing Recycled Products - Purchasing recycled products closes the recycling loop. By buying recycled materials, we play a major role in keeping recycling an important industry in our society. When consumers purchase products made from recycled materials, it creates a demand that manufacturers will want to continue to meet.
The best way to support recycling programs is not just by recycling but buying products made with recycled materials. Look for these labels when looking for recycled products.
"Pre-consumer materials" - Scrap, trimmings and other by-products from manufacturing plants that were never used by consumers.
"Post-consumer materials" - Comes from products that were bought by consumers, used and then recycled.
"Recycled content" - Materials that have been recovered from going into the trash; a percentage of how much recycled content is used should be found on the label or container.
"Recyclable" - Products that can be recycled after use; doesn't necessarily contain recycled materials.
The EPA's Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines program promotes the use of recycled materials. While these particular guidelines are for federal, state and local agencies funded by the federal government, the information helps all individuals interested in knowing which suppliers offer recovered material-made products.
Recycling is great but reusing is even better! It's not that hard to believe considering reusing products takes no energy, skill or resources to process an old product and create a new one. Besides, there are products and materials that may not be recyclable, so finding another way to use the product is your best option.
Visit Reduce Reuse Recycle for more ideas on how to reuse everyday items that are typically pitched or recycled. Or check out sites such as FreeCycle, ReUseIt and Craigslist to connect with those interested in giving their unwanted items to those who can actually use it.