The Reality of Recycling
At FD Market, one of our core values is trying your best to live a zero waste lifestyle. An easy way to track the amount of waste you produce is by taking note of your household trash and recycling bins. Then try to reduce that.
Of course, we still strongly encourage that you properly dispose of the waste that you do collect, but there is a reason we ask that you don’t rely on your recycling bins to get the job done -- the process is not trustworthy.
The best solution is to reduce your waste by reusing containers (and going to a refillery!), but that is not always possible, so here’s what you should know to reduce your footprint and support your environment.
Background on why recycling isn’t a trustworthy process.
For the past couple of decades, China has been the main location for countries around the world to send their plastic waste for recycling. In 2016, it was discovered that 16 million tons of plastic, paper, and metal were sent to China from the US alone, and about 30% were contaminated and deemed unrecyclable. It is estimated that 1.3-1.5 million metric tons of plastic flooded China’s countryside and oceans per year.
In 2018, China created stricter policies for the plastic they would accept, leaving the US to look elsewhere for places to recycle their millions of tons of plastic. Since then, the US has tried different locations, but more and more countries are banning imports because of how overwhelming the quantity is.
Unfortunately, there is not a lot you and I can do about the issue of where to send the plastic, but there are ways you can help keep plastic out of landfills by making sure you recycle properly and effectively.
Have recycling bins in all areas of your house.
Most people who recycle have recycling bins exclusively in their kitchen. But to really make an impact, you should try to have recycling bins in your bathrooms, offices, and bedrooms to catch every recyclable item in your house. Trust me, it will make a difference.
That doesn’t mean you should go and throw everything in the recycling “just in case,” because that can lead to more problems than solutions.
What is wishcylcing and how can you avoid it?
Wishcycling is the process of throwing something in the recycling bin with the hope that it is recyclable and will be recycled.
At first, this seems like a good approach so that you aren’t missing anything, but the reality is that throwing something non-recyclable in the recycling bin with everything else can actually contaminate those other products. This can cause anywhere from one to all of the products in your bin to be considered unrecyclable; that can be a big problem.
There are two main ways to ensure that you do not fall victim to wishcycling:
- Check your borough’s recycling guidelines. (Just because it has a recycling symbol on it does not mean all areas will accept it).
- Clean your recyclables so that there is no excess food or liquid in them.
In general, here is what you should avoid putting in your recycling bin:
- Food scraps and liquids
- Bagged recyclables (remove items from the bag before putting them in the bin)
- Plastic bags
- Plastic wrap
- Flexible packaging
- Cups with waxy coating
- Polystyrene foam/plastic
In general, here are items that you should be putting in your recycling bin:
- Plastic bottles and containers (clean and dry!)
- Food and beverage cans
- Flattened cardboard and paperboard
- Glass bottles and containers
Check your local municipality because they may also take:
- Aluminum food and beverage containers
- Iron cans
At the end of the day, the best choice is to reuse rather than recycle.
Even considering the information above on how to recycle properly, plastic is still rarely recycled, and can usually only be downcycled when it is. (Downcycling is when a product is recycled into an item of lesser quality and functionality). Aluminum and glass have higher recycling rates, but we still shouldn’t rely on recycling as our only method for reducing waste.
Keep your plastic bottles, glass jars, aluminum containers, and more! Visit us and ask about the many, many waste-free alternatives we have for you in our refillery or on the shelves.
If you are looking to transition to a zero-waste routine in a specific area of your life, browse through previous blog posts to find guides and descriptions of many of our items.
Reduce your waste. Reuse your containers. Recycle the rest. Every little bit counts!
Thank you for taking steps towards a greener future!
13, Renee Cho|March, et al. “Recycling in the U.S. Is Broken. How Do We Fix It?” State of the Planet, 8 Dec. 2020, news.climate.columbia.edu/2020/03/13/fix-recycling-america/.
“Recycling.” Borough of Emmaus Official Website, www.borough.emmaus.pa.us/recycling/.
“What Is Recycling & What to Recycle: Waste Management.” Waste Disposal & Recycling, www.wm.com/us/en/recycle-right/recycling-101.