“There is enough on earth for everybody’s need, but not for everyone’s greed” – Mahatma Gandhi

Although recycling has become more widespread over the last 15 years, current statistics estimate that each American discards nearly 1,600 pounds of trash annually, most of which still goes to landfills and incinerators. Recycling is the most effective way to reduce this figure, as materials that would be going into landfills or incinerators instead are used to make new products. Before you throw away think about Mother Earth and reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Recycle materials you use – Recycling saves resources, decreases the use of toxic chemicals, cuts energy use, helps curb global warming, stems the flow of water and air pollution, reduces the need for landfills and incinerators, and creates jobs. Make an effort to participate fully in your city’s recycling program. Learn where you can recycle items the city doesn’t recycle, such as office paper, Styrofoam, tires, and electronics, and make an effort to take these items to drop sites.

Buy recycled products – Look on the label for the products or packaging with the greatest percentage of post-consumer recycled content, which ensures that the materials have been used before. Try to buy paper products that have more than 50 percent post-consumer content.

Decomposition Rates
Paper 2-4 weeks
Leaves 1-3 months
Orange Peels 6 months
Milk Carton 5 years
Plastic Bag 10-20 years
Plastic Container 50-80 years
Aluminum Can 80 years
Tin Can 100 years
Plastic Soda Bottle 450 years
Glass Bottle 500 years
Styrofoam Never

Buy products with less packaging – A large percentage of the paper, cardboard, and plastic we use goes into packaging — and much of it is wasteful and unnecessary. When you buy a product, be aware of what packaging you are purchasing as well. Reward those companies that are most enlightened about their use of packaging by purchasing their products. Contact companies that over-package and tell them you will be more likely to buy if they change this policy.

Be aware of the materials you discard – Try to avoid discarding materials with slow decomposition rates.

More On The Web

10 Fast Facts on Recycling – from the EPA
More Recycling Facts – including decomposition rates
National Recycling Coalition
America Recycles Day – November 15