Get Involved: Recycle It’s Easier Than You Think

Tracey Ruckman, CHS

How many times have you heard the phrase reduce, reuse and recycle? Plenty, right? Now, let me ask you, how many times do you actually incorporate it into your daily life? It’s not a new concept. Did you know the art of recycling was around long before the familiar curbside bins first appeared in your neighborhood? The first organized recycling effort started in 1913 and before that people were melting metal and repurposing it to create tools and weapons. You could say it’s in our nature to reuse and recycle. Unfortunately, it’s also in our nature to create more waste than we know what to do with.

Seriously consider some of these informative facts:

Plastic bags do not biodegrade. They are one of the lightest pieces of litter floating around. It takes twice as much energy to burn one in an incinerator as it does to recycle one. Were you aware that, if you’re not reusing them for shopping bags or bathroom trash liners, many of your local grocery stores and big box stores have bins to collect them so they will be properly recycled?

Every month Americans throw out enough glass bottles and jars to fill up a giant skyscraper.

The U.S. is the number one trashproducing country in the world at 1,609 pounds per person per year. This means that 5% of the world's people generate 40% of the world's waste.

If a single quart of motor oil is not disposed of properly it can contaminate up to 2,000,000 gallons of fresh water. Worse yet, motor oil never dissolves or degrades. Oil can be recycled, re-refined and used again, reducing our reliance on imported oil.

The amount of wood and paper we throw away each year is enough to heat 50,000,000 homes for 20 years.

The average household throws away 13,000 separate pieces of paper each year. Most of that paper is junk mail. Unless you enjoy receiving junk mail, take a minute and remove your name from the list by contacting the National Do Not Mail list at

• When a used aluminum can is recycled it is back on the grocery shelfas a new can, in as little as 60 days. An aluminum can that is thrown away will still be a can 500 years from now taking up space in a landfill.

• Americans toss out enough plastic cups, forks, spoons and paper every year to circle the equator 300 times.

Is Recycling Worth The Effort?

It is and it's worth it to make the effort. Whether it's sorting and hauling containers to the curb, taking items to the recycling center or just plain remembering to incorporate recycling into our daily lives, it makes a difference. Look at it practically: the majority of us want to save money at the gas pump, have clean air to breathe and avoid the wastelands that are created by landfills. Well, recycling does all of that. When we recycle we conserve our natural resources. We do not have to increase our drilling for oil, cut down more trees or do strip mining for ore. This makes our valuable resources last longer and also keeps money in our pockets.

Get Involved

If you're not sure where to begin start small. Contact your local recycling center to find out what can and cannot be recycled and whether or not curbside collection is available. If it is not available where you live most towns and cities have drop off recycling stations. Find the nearest one and visit it often with your recyclable goods. The good news is, these days nearly everything can be recycled—plastic, paper, glass, aluminum, cardboard, batteries, paint, motor oils, light bulbs, tires, aerosols, cell phones, printer cartridges and even electronics. Recycling centers may differ on what they do and don't collect; but, nearly all of them handle plastic, paper, cardboard and aluminum. Next, decide on what to recycle. If your feeling overwhelmed, start with the more common household waste items like plastic and cardboard. Set up containers to store the recycled goods and decide on the best location for them. You may find you need more than one station set up. The most common place is the kitchen, but many people find they want stations in the office and the garage as well. Now that you're set up, all you need to do is sort and recycle!


Reusing materials is just as important as recycling. Not only does it cut down on waste, but just like recycling it saves money and resources. Plastic containers have many purposes and a long life span. They can be reused for everything from food storage to trinket and toy storage, piggy banks, bug boxes and even fish tanks. Check out these other great recycling/reuse ideas.

Empty netted bags from oranges, potatoes and onions make great scrubbers for everything from messy kitchens to removing hard water stains in the bathroom and on outdoor surfaces like patio furniture. Simply take the empty bag, rinse it off and place a dishrag inside. Cut it or tie it to the desired size and add the biodegradable cleaning agent you prefer. Incidentally, baking soda is an incredibly safe and fume free cleaner and deodorizer for multiple cleaning needs.

Stale bread happens. Rather than throwing it out consider these dishes that actually call for stale bread: croutons, bread crumbs, bread pudding, French toast and stuffing. To make bread crumbs, bake the stale bread at 150 degrees until the bread is dry and brittle. Then chop in a blender or food processor. If you don't have either of those kitchen tools, simply place the bread in the bag it came out of, seal and gently crush into small pieces. If needed, dry the crumbs further on the counter or back in the oven. Bread crumbs are great plain, or seasoned with spices and are used in numerous recipes as a thickener, a breading or a crunchy topping. For a sweeter twist, mix with brown sugar, cinnamon, or coconut flakes for desert and ice cream dishes.

Many people toss out their veggies and fish scraps after cutting them up. What they are really throwing out though is next month's meal. Try this instead— wash the scraps thoroughly, boil for 20 minutes, discard the scraps and what do you have left? A delicious homemade broth that will keep in the freezer for up to six months! (Fish stock has a freezer life of about four months).

Want to get the kids involved? Have them gather soap slivers from the bathrooms and melt them in a microwave safe dish. One to three minutes is sufficient, but keep an eye on it because it puffs up like a marshmallow. Take it out with a hot pad and pour onto foil or wax paper, allow it to cool so it is warm to the touch, but still easy to shape and let your kids create! Cookie cutters also work great for this. The molds need to cool for about five minutes—or until hardened. If you are in a hurry for your newly created soaps, stick them in the refrigerator for a fast cool. Not only will you have fun making fancy soaps, more importantly, your kids will have clean hands!

Old newspapers have a multitude of uses, but here are some of the more common ones. Cleaning: they are a great tool for getting a streak free shine on windows and mirrors. Newspaper is a great deodorizer. Place in wet shoes to absorb water, help the shoe hold its shape and deodorize overnight. Do you have pet cats? Use newspaper as litter box liners. Place shredded newspaper in the bottom of the cat box, you'll use less litter and it will help absorb wetness and odor. In the garden, wrap green tomatoes in newspaper to help them ripen quicker. Newspapers make an excellent weed barrier: cut a hole in the middle of the paper and put it around the plant. Not only will it keep the weeds out, but it also retains moisture and that cuts back on watering and keeps the plant happy. For storage purposes, use it as a shape keeper in shoes, hats and purses. Crumple it up and fill your empty coolers to keep them fresh and odor free. It also makes a great packing material for moving, shipping and storing items. Place it on a table underneath a tablecloth to help protect it from burns, scratches and spills. Not only will you save your tabletop you'll also save a few dollars and avoid buying a tablecloth pad. Newspaper is great for kid's crafts, too. Keep them busy with paper mache, origami, hats, boats, paper dolls, airplanes and paper chains.

Next time you hear or see the phrase reduce, reuse and recycle, hopefully it will have new meaning for you. Whether you're a recycling pro or a recycling novice, every little bit helps and who wouldn't want to make life easier and a little less messy?

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Tracey Ruckman received her CHS designation from Trinity School of Natural Health and has been involved in the natural health field for over ten years. She resides in the Midwest with her husband and two boys where she is continuously learning and incorporating newfound knowledge into her life and the lives of those around her.