Last June I did a series on Simplicity and talked a little bit about re-purposing, re-using and recycling. Someone asked what our recycling system looked like and I'm just now getting around to tell you! Oops.
Our "system" - if you can even call it that - is extremely simple. And ugly, which is why we keep it in the basement, so I don't have to stare at it piling up. (If I had a walk-in garage, I'd probably store it there, but since we don't this works.)
In Kansas, you can recycle plastic/tin/aluminum, paper, chipboard (cereal boxes), and cardboard and clear/colored glass. Go here for more details as well as drop-off locations.)
So, I keep a crate for paper/cardboard, an old garbage can from college for the plastic and tin and a little sturdy box for our glass - not too much is made from glass these days. And it's incredible how quickly these fill up. I set aside the junk mail as it comes in and plastic containers as we empty them and scan the kitchen counter as I go downstairs - I take it with me and throw it in!
When it gets too full, I drag it upstairs to the car and dump it at the recycling place on my way to somewhere else. If everything is sorted like this, it really doesn't take a lot of extra time to dump and go. Plus we have so much less trash - it's amazing. And, once we're potty trained, we'll have even less trash! (I still wish she could wear her cloth dipes.)
I am thankful for the recycling options available in the States, I really am. But in Germany/Switzerland and Korea, you can recycle almost EVERYTHING - even food scraps! Almost
every bit of food packaging is made to be recycled unlike so much of
ours. You end up with so little trash. For some Americans the Euro recycling units and habit took awhile to get used to, but it becomes second nature really quickly. I wish the US could come up with a system like this - seems possible if other 1st world countries can do it!
I really hate to NOT recycle - to think of all the trash in the landfills that could be recycled instead of building up problems in landfills...
Last summer I also read The Story of Stuff (see a short version here on youtube: The Story of Stuff) and Seven by Jen Hatmaker...
... and it made me really re-evaluate my practice of recycling. That maybe just recycling isn't enough. Maybe finding ways to reduce is better. You know the adage, "reduce, reuse, recycle" - well, it's not just for thrift, it's in that order for a reason! If you reduce you won't have as much to recycle. (Duh.)
Now, the hard part is the way our goods in the US (mostly food in my case) are packaged. Almost everything has some kind of packaging, etc. And it's not like I can just stop buying food! So I still throw more away than I'd like, but...
How have I found ways to reduce economically? I haven't found too many ways yet, but I'm still looking.
1) Stop buying stuff
2) Find things to buy in bulk
3) Buy produce without the produce baggies and wash it later (you do anyway, right?) or shop at a CSA or Farmer's Market with your own basket.
4) Compost (another whole bag of worms - literally!- but something I'd like to do.)
I'll end it here. What do you think?
It can get really complicated, but instead of getting overwhelmed, I do try to do what I can with what I have. Unfortunately, I don't have the time or patience (with myself or a 2 yr old!) to make our bread/tortillas myself or a garden large enough to sustain us with produce or a budget big enough to buy all organic, fresh, whole foods. Maybe someday, but for now, buying a few things in bulk, trying to use less packaged materials and recycling are the ways I contribute.