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2020 taught us many things and among them was the value of recycling as an essential public service and a critical component to supply chains providing items like cardboard for online order shipments and food packaging. According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), the economic impact of recycling in Wisconsin in 2019 was over $4.5 billion dollars, including over 20,000 jobs and wages exceeding $1.2 billion dollars. You help make that happen!
If you’re tired of the same old New Year’s resolutions – you know – the ones you abandon before the end of January, why not resolve to reduce waste and recycle right? We’re here to help with a few resolutions to choose from.
10 Resolutions to Help You Recycle Right and Reduce Waste in 2021
1. Know Before You Throw: The items accepted for recycling can vary depending on where you live and who provides your recycling collections. Before you throw something into the recycling cart, make sure it’s on your approved list. If you live in a 1-4 unit household in the City of Milwaukee, download a copy of the accepted materials list and post it by your collection containers. If you don’t receive City collections, check with your property manager for a copy of the accepted materials list for your apartment or office and ask for it to be posted near receptacles.
2. When in Doubt, Throw it Out: I know you want to recycle as much as possible, but “wishcycling” or throwing unaccepted items in the cart hoping they might get recycled is very detrimental to the system. If you don’t have a guide handy to confirm something is recyclable, it’s best to throw it out and help protect recycling equipment and the value of accepted materials arriving at the recycling facility.
3. Don’t bag your recyclables: Curbside recycling should be collected loose in your cart. No bags, please! This allows the material to arrive at the recycling facility ready to be sorted by a variety of equipment. If you have extra curbside recyclables that don’t fit into the cart, consider setting them to the side in open paper bags or take them to a Drop Off Center for free recycling.
4. Properly dispose of masks, wipes, and gloves: While recycling should be loose in the cart, garbage on the other hand should always be bagged. Items like gloves, masks, and wipes are not recyclable and should be bagged and placed in the garbage cart for proper disposal.
5. Donate small and bulky items that could be reused: A great way to reduce what you send to landfill is by donating gently-used and working-condition items you no longer need. Start a donation pile in a corner of your home and make a trip as needed. Do you have items that are too large to transport yourself? We’ve put together a list of donation locationsincluding companies that can pick up from your home.
6. Perform a home waste audit: To help reduce your waste this year, put on your sleuthing hat and investigate the materials you throw into the garbage. Are there a lot of plastic containers that aren’t recyclable? Try switching to a product that comes in a #1, #2, or #5 plastic container that can be recycled. Mainly food? Consider installing a garbage disposal in your sink or make plans to compost this year. The City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works hosts a compost bin sale every year. More information will be available this spring.
7. Return plastic bags and film to stores for recycling: Plastic bags, wraps, and films should never be placed into your recycling cart as they tangle around recycling facility sorting equipment, cause downtime, and can lower the value of other materials when they sneak into sorted bales. However, many retail locations provide recycling collection containers for these items where they can be collected together and recycled together. Find a plastic film drop off location near you.
8. Keep electronics, batteries, and propane tanks out of recycling and garbage carts: Electronics, batteries, and propane tanks can cause fires at our recycling facility, in trash centers, and inside trucks. Many residential electronics can be recycled at a Drop Off Center, cell phones can be traded in with your provider or taken to a retail drop off, and propane tank retailers and manufacturers should be contacted regarding returns. As much as possible, choose refillable tanks that can be reused.
9. Empty and rinse your recyclables: We wash our dishes so that they’re clean and ready to be used again. Recyclables should be thought of in a similar way. Before you recycle your cans, bottles, jars, and cartons, empty them of leftover beverages or food waste and give a quick rinse. This helps maintain high material quality, limits contamination of other items (wet, sticky paper is tough to sort), and promotes a clean, safe environment for recycling facility workers.
10. Reduce, reuse, and rethink: Sustainability starts at the cart. Find ways to reduce your consumption, reuse items, and rethink your needs and approach with examples like these:
i. Reduce by purchasing smaller amounts of food that quickly spoil at a time. While frequent trips to the store may not be easy these days, planning grocery trips around produce and other quick to spoil items helps you take stock of what’s in your pantry and should be consumed first.
ii. Reuse by replacing products that you most often throw away with reusable options. This might include reusable bags, a coffee thermos, or glass jars to store bulk food purchases that have a longer shelf life.
iii. Rethink by considering the packaging of what you purchase to see if it’s recyclable and made from recycled content before buying.
Whether it’s a resolution from the list above or another of your imagining, remember that no action is too small. Everything adds up! Find a resolution that fits well with your life and can become routine to give it longevity and see you through 2021.