Homemaking

Recycling…what it really is

Recycling has become the catch all phrase often used in place of the 3 R’s. But in its truest form recycling means taking one thing and changing it, usually chemically, into another. This is not to say that recycling is without value; it is certainly better than putting the items in the bin where they will end up in landfills and leach chemicals into our ground water. It is though to say that before you place anything in the recycle bag, first consider if you could reduce or re-use it, because everything that ends up in the recycling bag will have to be altered before it can be used again. Even then it is cleaner to produce goods from recyclables than from raw materials.

Here are just a few reasons to make certain that after you have reduced the amount of waste your create and re-used as many things as possible that your family puts as many things as possible into the recycling bins:

  • Recycling one aluminium can saves enough energy to run a TV for three hours — or the equivalent of a half a gallon of gasoline.
  • Each ton (2000 pounds) of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, 4000 kilowatts of energy, and 7000 gallons of water. This represents a 64% energy savings, a 58% water savings, and 60 pounds less of air pollution!
  • The 17 trees saved (above) can absorb a total of 250 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year. Burning that same ton of paper would create 1500 pounds of carbon dioxide.
  • Recycling plastic saves twice as much energy as burning it in an incinerator.
  • The energy saved from recycling one glass bottle can run a 100-watt light bulb for four hours. It also causes 20% less air pollution and 50% less water pollution than when a new bottle is made from raw materials.
  • A modern glass bottle would take 4000 years or more to decompose — and even longer if it’s in the landfill.

For more examples of interesting recycling facts, check out A Recycling Revolution at http://www.recycling-revolution.com/recycling-facts.html.

My two bags of recyclables waiting to be picked up.
My two bags of recyclables waiting to be picked up.

Today is the actually a great day to talk about recycling. Each Thursday the council sends around men to collect our recyclables. The council gives us re-usable sacks, which we can use to collect all paper, cardboard, tin cans, aluminium, glass bottles and jars and plastic bottles. Unfortunately, they do not over recycling for other plastics. As I have been writing this series of blogs that has been one thing that I have been especially mindful of: how much plastic packaging manufacturers use that cannot be recycled and that it is estimated takes over 500 years to decompose in landfills.

My wormery cost only £30 thanks to Islington council's subsidy.
My wormery cost only £30 thanks to Islington council's subsidy.

But it is not just our plastics, glass, metals and paper that we recycle. Thanks to a wonderful programme through the Islington council, last year we were able to purchase a subsidized wormery to recycle our food waste into compost and liquid fertilizer for growing my own food. Actually, even though we may think that food thrown into the bin will degrade relatively quickly in the landfills, the biggest problem is the amount of methane, a dangerous green house gas, which it produces in that time. Methane is twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide and a major contribute to climate change. While my wormery cannot accommodate meat products I put all peels and unused fruits and vegetables into it. I should soon be harvesting my first patch of compost…just in time for my summer garden.

So how does my family do on recycling? Not too bad honestly. This week we had two bags of recyables and will only have two half full 13 gallon bin bags of other rubbish. Actually hubby and I got into a minor disagreement over the trash last night. One of the first rules of the 3R’s is to only throw out your garbage when the bag is full. In our case though, it had begun to smell. I am still looking for a solution…if anyone has ideas they would be greatly appreciated. But for a family of three adults and one pre-schoolers two large bags of recycling and one full 13 gallon bin bag in a week is pretty good I think. I imagine that there are single people, who put more than one bag in the bin each week.

How do you and your family do recycling? Tomorrow, we will look at some of the lessons I have learned about the 3 R’s of reduce, re-use, recycle as I have written these posts this week. I will do an inventory of ways that my family can and will improve. My mind is buzzing with the possibilities already; I hope you’ll join me for the last in this series about the 3 R’s.

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