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Recycling, reducing, reusing

National Recycling month is coming to a close. This month we have talked about how the landfill works, how we are all part of the recycling process, and how companies are working hard to use those recyclables again in new packing or products. However, as a society as a whole, we all need to understand that recycling alone will not get us out of our waste problem.

Recycling is only part of the solution. However, we also have to step up to the future of trash disposal and reduce the trash that we are making. It starts first with making better choices when we go shopping, even for everyday items. We need to reduce and reuse. These are the other two “r’s” along with recycling. Recently, as of 2018, the United States recycling rate fell. It was not because we were recycling less but we, as a country, are throwing away much, much more.

Reducing what we purchase and making those purchases count or last longer is so very important. A great example is bottled water. Bottled water is not necessary unless you live somewhere where the water is poor. A Brita water conditioner container or something similar along with a reusable water bottle will save you money and will reduce plastic waste. Only use single-use plastic when there are no other choices: single-use plastics are plastic utensils, straws, water that comes in plastic bottles, stop using Styrofoam plates and cups, and stop using plastic drinking cups. We need to reduce the use of other single-use products such as paper plates, paper cups, single-serving containers, and the like.

It is important to choose wisely when deciding to purchase small appliances (vacuum cleaners, blenders, toasters, etc) because they are almost always trash. We cannot recycle these items because they are made up of more than one type of material such as plastic and metals. If we chose a small appliance that lasts longer, then we will have less to purchase and throw out during our lifetime. We could even pass that small appliance down to our children if need be.

Think ahead before purchasing some of these items (computers, televisions, small appliances, mattresses, clothing, etc) on what you will do with it once you are done using it or if it happens to break. Keep in mind that these are often items that very often incur an extra fee for disposal which is not included in your regular trash service. There are other options to throwing these items in the trash. Call us to find out more. Purchase only the textiles (clothes, towels, rugs, etc) that you absolutely need and use them until they are worn out. If donating items, wash these items before donating and call ahead and ask questions about how the best way is to donate them before bringing them.

It is very difficult to avoid plastic containers and it helps to avoid them as much as you possibly can. It is nearly impossible in our area to avoid them altogether but we can make some simple swaps. This is pretty evident even in my own life when I take a look at what I have sitting in my grocery cart some days.

An example is using more bar soap than liquid soap whenever possible. Choose soda in aluminum cans rather than in plastic bottles whenever you can. Use beeswax wrapping paper instead of plastic wrap. Compost your food waste whenever possible. Food waste makes up approximately 22% of the waste (trash) that is thrown into the landfill. Get a reusable water bottle and ditch the plastic bottle of water. Return plastic shopping bags to the store. Get into the habit of using cloth napkins instead of paper napkins. Ditch paper towels for cloth towels to clean up messes. And remember, most of these simple swaps not only will be helping to save on the things we are throwing away, but it will also save you money because you will not be purchasing as many of these items!

For more information on recycling or disposing of unwanted items, please call the Lyon County Environmental Department at (507) 532-8210.

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