The world is in danger and we are to blame. Sadly, Americans create a monumental amount of waste every single day that ends up further damaging the environment. Each year in the U.S., a total of 254 million tons of waste is created. But according to the Environmental Protection Agency, if all the recyclable materials in that large pile of waste were properly recycled rather than just thrown in the trash, we would save roughly $7 billion worth of reusable resources — and keep tons of waste out of landfills.
These are such large-scale environmental issues, but each individual on the planet really can do their part to help change the way we treat out trash, our recyclables, and the world. A good first step is simply avoiding the common mistakes that contribute to pollution. If you want to live a greener life, here are a few of the most common recycling mistakes you could be making without even realizing it.
Not Taking Advantage of Local Recycling Programs
Despite the fact that over 87% of U.S. citizens have access to drop-off or curbside recycling programs, there are still plenty of people that aren’t utilizing these services. Rather than walking the 20 or 30 feet to the end of their driveway, these non-recyclers are taking the lazy option and throwing out everything. Don’t make this major recycling mistake ever again; take advantage of the recycling programs you have access to.
Improperly Discarding Plastic Grocery Bags
Throwing out plastic bags, rather than recycling them, is one of the most damaging recycling mistakes a person can make. Each year, Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags that end up in landfills and along the U.S. coastline. Unfortunately, many people mistakenly believe that you can’t recycle plastic bags at all. In fact, you can, it’s just a little bit more complicated.
Your best bet is to completely remove plastic bags from your shopping experience, as there are plenty of reusable options you can use. The Fill reports that the only way to ensure these bags are being recycled is to take them to a credible recycling center.
Throwing Out Plastic Bottle Caps
At one point in time, plastic caps couldn’t be recycled, but times have changed. Hopefully you know that plastic bottles should be properly recycled, but not everyone knows that the plastic caps atop these bottles are just as reusable. Americans get rid of 2.5 million plastic bottles an hour, but the bottle caps don’t often make it into the recycling bin.
Recycling Dirty Paper and Cardboard
If you have paper or cardboard that’s in solid condition, go ahead and recycle! But if those items are too dirty — we’re looking at you, greasy pizza boxes — that can actually lead to more recycling problems. Americans use 69 million tons of paper each year, accounting for 27% of our municipal waste. But even a small amount of dirt or grease on paper or cardboard can actually ruin an entire batch of recyclable items.
If you want to help lead the fight against pollution, it’s up to you to be more environmentally conscious and avoid making these recycling mistakes at all costs. By focusing on ethical junk removal, sorting out your recyclable and non-recyclable items, and taking advantage of local recycling programs, you’ll be playing a significant role in improving the environment and the future.
This guest post was contributed by Jon Grobbelaar of Junk King.