We've all seen it before. Those three little arrows that make up the symbol shown in our schools, workplaces and favorite restaurants. This week we are here to demystify and shed some light on recycling. Before you click out and go online shop at Anthropologie, hold on one second. I know it may seem dull or common to talk about recycling, but it is very important for the future of our planet to do it, and do it correctly.
The rules and regulations have changed over and over again for recycling. It can seem hard to keep up and therefore, not worth the heart ache. But did you know, "Landfills are among the biggest contributors to soil pollution – roughly 80% of the items buried in landfills could be recycled" (Brucker, 2018). WOAH. If we only paid even the slightest bit more attention to sorting our waste, we could change this number drastically.
I know what you are thinking. I always hear so much negative talk about landfills. What is so bad about them? Landfills are notoriously bad, for both us and the environment, because they release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses such as methane into the atmosphere (Mosaic, 2020). It also gives items that utilize our natural resources a very short lifespan; because of this, we have to think more about how to help recycled materials ease the burden on our dwindling natural resources.
You may also think, "can my small contribution make a difference? I feel like it only makes a difference if we as a nation recycle on a large scale." FALSE. "A single recycled plastic bottle saves enough energy to run a 100-watt bulb for 4 hours. It also creates 20% less air pollution and 50% less water pollution than would be created when making a new bottle (Brucker, 2018)." Just ONE!
Right now, as a nation our recycling rate is as low as 35%. A lot of that has to do with confusion on the practice and how to go about it. One survey conducted by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) suggests that 66% of Americans would NOT recycle a product if it’s not easy or inconvenient to do so (Mosaic, 2020). It’s clear then, that removing the cloud of mystery surrounding our recycling practices, while also increasing education and transparency, is key to boosting recycling rates and we want to help. Below we have outlined a few key facts to help guide your recycling practices.
Office paper waste is estimated to be around 12.1 trillion sheets of paper a year, with paper accounting for 50% of waste from businesses.
It is difficult to know exactly how much paper is made from recycled materials, however, it is estimated that 40% of the world’s logging industry output goes into manufacturing virgin paper.
TIP: You can recycle all paper, magazines, newspapers & flattened cardboard boxes. If they are wet, compost them. If they have food remains or stains, rid them if you can before recycling ("What Is Recycling & What to Recycle: Waste Management").
The degrade time for aluminum is around 200-500 years, meaning that if it does go to landfill it takes a very long time to break down.
Recycling a single aluminum can could power a television for 3 hours.
TIP: Recycle empty tin, aluminum and steel cans. Aerosol cans can be recycled if
empty. Dispose of the plastic lid first ("What Is Recycling & What to Recycle: Waste Management").
The average time for a glass bottle to decompose is around 4,000 years.
28 billion glass bottles and jars go to landfill each year.
Glass is endlessly recyclable and generally doesn’t suffer from loss of quality or purity.
Light bulbs pose numerous issues, and while some can be recycled, others can only be sent to landfill.
TIP: Glass recycling tends to abide by local guidelines. Some communities have curbside pickup or drop-off locations to recycle glass ("What Is Recycling & What to Recycle: Waste Management").
First, I wanted to define E-Waste. E- Waste or Electronic waste describes discarded electrical materials and components or electronic devices (LeBlanc, 2020).
In 2017, around 2.8 million tons of selected consumer electronic waste was generated, including televisions, VCRs, DVD players, video cameras, stereo systems, phones, and computer equipment.
Some estimates suggest that 40% of the heavy metals found in landfills come from electronic products.
TIP: Find an e-waste recycler who is officially certified by the Basel Action Network (BAN) to dispose of your items. A lot of electronic companies tend to have an exchange policy whereby they take back your old gadgets when you buy a later version, sometimes offering you a discount on your new purchase (LeBlanc, 2020).
Plastic bags and water bottles may take up to 1,000 years to decompose in landfill and lead to micro-plastics entering the ocean.
Plastic in the ocean is a huge problem with estimates suggesting that 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the world’s oceans annually.
While plastic bag bans are now coming into effect, it is estimated that there are 100 million plastic bags used in the US each year.
TIP: Recycle plastics by shape: bottles, jars, jugs and tubs. The "chasing arrows" symbol doesn't necessarily mean it's recyclable. Clean and dry containers before disposing. Learn more about plastics 1-7 here.
Textile Recycling Facts:
This topic in particular is something I am very passionate about changing and something I have studied for years.
It is estimated that around 16.9 million tons of textile waste is generated each year in the United States.
Americans dispose of 13 million tons of textiles (about 85 percent of their clothes) each year.
Some clothing can take up to 40 years to decompose in landfill.
The average lifetime of a piece of clothing is as little as three years.
Recycling rates for all textiles is around 15%.
The USA is a world leader in exporting used textiles, accounting for more than 40% annually.
95% of textiles have the potential to be recycled or reused.
Avoid fast fashion
Avoid garments made with synthetic fibers (polyester, acrylic, nylon, rayon etc.)
Have clothing swaps
Naturally Dye items with stains or discoloration using our Dye Kits.
Donate to local women's centers or schools (avoid Goodwill if you can)
Trust me, I am just as overwhelmed as you are. That is why I have created a beautiful, simple & printable "Recycling Guide" for you to hang in your home & consult every time you don't know what to do. Tag us when you hang it up on social media, @dyeraid. We are in this together, and I know with every little bit of new knowledge and conscious decision we can make HUGE strides for our planet.
click here to download
Thanks for joining me on the journey toward a brighter, more sustainable future.
Brucker, Drew. “50 Recycling & Trash Statistics That Will Make You Think Twice About Your Trash.” Rubicon, 14 Nov. 2018, www.rubicon.com/blog/statistics-trash-recycling/#:~:text=A single recycled plastic bottle,it takes to burn it.
Lawson, Eric. “5 Ways to Safely Dispose Of Your Electronic Waste.” Green Clean Guide, 10 Dec. 2017, greencleanguide.com/5-ways-to-safely-dispose-of-your-electronic-waste/.
LeBlanc, Rick. “Learn More About E-Waste Recycling With These Facts and Figures.” The Balance Small Business, 14 Jan. 2020, www.thebalancesmb.com/e-waste-recycling-facts-and-figures-2878189#:~:text=Electronic%20waste%2C%20or%20e%2Dwaste,with%20a%20battery%20or%20plug.&text=1%EF%BB%BF%20If%20not%20properly,recycling%20and%20recovery%20programs%20critical.
Mosaic. “60 Recycling Facts & Statistics: RTS.” Recycle Track Systems, 26 Oct. 2020, www.rts.com/blog/recycling-facts-statistics/.
“Smart Plastics Guide.” National Geographic's Strange Days on Planet Earth, PBS , www-tc.pbs.org/strangedays/pdf/StrangeDaysSmartPlasticsGuide.pdf.
“What Is Recycling & What to Recycle: Waste Management.” Waste Disposal & Recycling, WM WM Intellectual Property Holdings, L.L.C, Jan. 2021, www.wm.com/us/en/recycle-right/recycling-101.