Several years ago, our small mid-west town was light years behind the green movement that was happening across the nation.
Curbside recycling wasn’t available, so while I was concerned about the amount of trash we produced, I waited for someone else to make the process easy.
Living in a town that seemed to be on the opposite end of the color spectrum from green, I’ve found there are abundant recycling opportunities once I made the effort to find them.
The following are some manageable and sometimes unexpected ways to recycle that have helped my family of four reduce our landfill waste to just a few bags a month.
Plastic bag recycling bins at grocery stores was the first way I found to recycle in my town. I’ve used these for nearly everything that can remotely be considered a bag, including plastic wrap around products. We have a lot fewer of these to recycle now that I carry my own reusable bags.
It was a happy day when a recycling drop-off became available in my community, although it only lasted several years. The facility accepted standard recyclables that were clean and sorted. Within a short time, it helped cut our household landfill trash in half!
It really wasn’t much effort to rinse bottles or break down cardboard. It also didn’t take a lot of room to store these them until they were dropped off. I cleared a shelf in the laundry closet to hold three bins, and found it was helpful to keep them close to the kitchen because that’s where most trash is produced. When the bins get full, I sort the contents into bags and store them in the garage.
It’s easier to pitch something in the trash, but recycling is contagious and it doesn’t take long for this new habit to set in. Once I started, I questioned everything we threw away. This mindset went with me everywhere, including work and social events. Each trip to the facility was with a carload of recyclables from our house, business, and sometimes extended family.
The more I recycled, the harder it got not to while on vacation. Most of the time, we bring collapsible recycling bags so we can travel more consciously. An online search for a drop-off location in the city we’re visiting has allowed us to collect and deposit recyclables before we head back home on several vacations.
Almost a decade after its opening, our town’s recycling facility closed. It was replaced by the city with drop-off bins for mixed recycling to be transported to a facility three hours away. After years of sorting our recyclables, I didn’t feel confident about mixing my collection in large bins that were unsupervised.
I went online and found some facilities near us that I never knew existed. They’re mainly for industrial recycling but accept some household materials. Although I use the city’s mixed collection bins for plastics, I take paper, cardboard, aluminum, and worn-out clothes to a different facility.
Glass is not accepted in our town, but I found a drop-off an hour away and collect it for when we have other business in that town. Some things like paint and electronics can only be recycled once a year during collection events, so it helps to research and be prepared.
I’ve found recycling opportunities in some unexpected places that might be where you live as well. Best Buy has a recycling kiosk inside its front door and they accept ink and toner cartridges, rechargeable batteries, wires, cords, cables, plastic bags, and used gift cards. Lowe’s will accept certain types of batteries, plastic plant materials, cell phones, and compact fluorescent lamp bulbs. Our police station accepts old prescription medicine and bottles. The local Lion’s Club collects old or broken eyeglasses and sunglasses and has a drop box at the grocery store.
Three Tips for Recycling Success
Here are a few things to consider if your town doesn’t offer curbside recycling or if you’re just getting started:
- Find a facility: Determine the closest facility and what they accept at the Recycling Guide on earth911.com. Just select what it is you want to recycle, enter your zip code, and this directory provides a list of nearby facilities.
- Develop a guide: If you’re like me, your small town may not have one location to take all recyclables. Once you know what is within a reasonable distance, get organized by making a list of the facilities, what they will take, plus their location and hours of operation. (Get a free recycle worksheet and other helpful tools for recycling when you subscribe to minimal me.)
- Sort and store smart: Find the most convenient place to store your recycling containers and label them. When they’re labeled and easy to access, the rest of your household can get on board so you’re not stuck rinsing and sorting everyone’s containers.
Going green is a positive lifestyle change. It doesn’t happen overnight and making the change gradually will help it stick. My dreams of achieving a zero waste lifestyle keep me inspired to be eco-conscious, but are tempered by what I can realistically do in my location.
Recycling has conditioned me to find alternatives for products that either have too much or unrecyclable packaging. Since I began recycling, I’ve made my own cleaning supplies and recently started composting. I’m beginning to enjoy some pretty nice benefits like healthier living and saving money as a bonus.
Do you live in an area where being green is challenging? Have you found solutions or maybe have trouble getting started? I would love to hear from you!
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