“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”
– Franklin Delano Roosevelt
If a glass of orange juice spills on the counter, how many paper towels will it take to clean up the mess? How about using only half as many? Oftentimes, reducing the amount of product used can significantly reduce the amount of trash generated. Even better: Use a cloth to sop up that spill. Then wash and reuse again and again.
The same concept applies when buying groceries. Buying only what is needed can prevent food from spoiling and getting thrown away. Or, when buying produce or a package of meat, fish, or poultry, consider using cloth or reusable plastic grocery bags to help reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills. According to the Progressive Bag Affiliates, California retailers distribute more than 19 billion plastic retail carryout bags annually.
According to a study done for CalRecycle, less than 10 percent of plastic grocery bags are being recycled in California, despite at-store plastic bag recycling programs that provide consumers with more than 7,000 convenient recycling locations. Dozens of California communities have instituted bans on carryout plastic bags to encourage consumers to bring reusable bags when they shop.
Reusing items can save time and money. Rechargeable batteries are a good example of reusable materials—by recharging the batteries, they can be reused many times before they die.
Through product reuse, millions of tons of trash can be diverted into landfills. Think outside the box. Turn that old glass pickle jar into a beautiful vase. And those packing peanuts left over from the holidays? Reuse them to send a gift.
Use lawn clippings and shrub prunings for composting, or make a beautiful piece of furniture from an old piece of wood. Use a cloth that can be washed and reused rather than disposable wipes.
Recycling benefits the environment and preserves our natural resources. Manufacturing new products out of recycled materials often uses less energy, can be less costly, and usually consumes less water than when virgin materials are used.
Most communities have curbside recycling programs. Make sure to put recyclable items such as glass and metal food containers, newspaper, and cardboard into the recycling bin instead of the trash can. And, recycling centers exist in almost every community in the state to pay California Refund Value (CRV) when glass and plastic bottles and aluminum cans are turned in for recycling.
Another way to help is by purchasing items made from recycled materials. There are beautiful glass dishes made from 100 percent recycled glass, wood benches and CD racks made from leftover construction timber, and mouse pads made from recycled plastic and tires, just to name a few. For more information, the CalRecycle website offers a directory of products made from recycled materials.
It’s important to recycle old televisions, computers, printers, ink cartridges, used oil, batteries, and a number of other common household items. Look for a local household hazardous waste collection center to drop off worn-out batteries and an e-waste collection center (www.erecycle.org) to turn in old electronics. These items are prohibited from being sent to landfills.
The CalRecycle Web site also has a list of certified used oil collection centers.