To recycle means to convert anything that is considered "waste" into something that can be reused again, whether that's a material or a product. While recycling is a much better option than sending waste to the landfill, it's not the ultimate goal or answer to changing our trash habits. Making decisions to reduce recycling by precycling and then upcycling things you already have is a good step before discarding. Some things have higher recycling rates than others. For example, stainless steel has a 100% recycle rate. Plastic on the the other hand is downcycled, and according to 5 Gyres, only 5-10% of the plastics that we produce are actually "recycled" or rather, downcycled. To delve deeper into this topic, you can read my post about plastics.
My recycling is mostly made up of the items that I still buy in packaging. I strive to reduce my recycling as much as possible to conserve resources and minimize pollution that happens whenever we manufacture anything, whether we're reusing materials or not.
Let's Look Inside My Recycling Bin!
Recycled Weekly ■
Recycled Monthly ■ ■
Recycled Yearly ■ ■ ■
Essential Oils: I use essential oils in many of my body care, wellness, and cleaning products. They come in glass bottles with a hard plastic top. I haven't seen an essential oil company that doesn't use plastic tops. I save the hard plastic tops, because after my visit to the landfill and recycling center in December 2015, I saw that while hard plastic lids are "recyclable" in my area, they were just being landfilled. Once I have accumulated a lot of lids (which could take years because a little essential oil goes a long way), I will drop them off somewhere that will actually recycle them. ■■■
Supplements: I take a few supplements (Vitamin D-3, Turmeric, etc...) which I'm able to buy in glass, but a few of them unfortunately have plastic lids. There is nothing I can do about this, and I will never make sacrifices for my health because I live this lifestyle. I still go to the dentist, the doctor, and will get antibiotics and any prescription medication if I need it. I just had my annual physical exam where they swabbed all up in my lady parts, "Um excuse me, can you use this homemade compostable swab I brought while you're checking me for cervical cancer?" Yeah, I don't think so, I would never do that. I'm totally down for disposablity when it comes to public health (I think that there is unnecessary waste in the medical field and would love to see less waste and plastic). ■■■
Alcohol: I drink wine more than anything else at home. I opt for wine that doesn't have packaging around the neck. "Keep it simple, keep it naked" that's my shopping motto. My boyfriend and I also drink the occasional bottled beer, especially during summer months-- so refreshing! ■■
Sparkling Water: We sometimes buy sparkling water packaged in glass and recycle it along with its metal top. Some people make their own sparlking water at home. We wouldn't do this because of the CO2 cartridge that you need to add the carbonation. ■■
Juice: On rare occasions I buy apple juice or raspberry lemonade in glass. We reuse the jars or recycle them and their metal lids. ■■
Dairy: We buy half and half in glass weekly for our coffee and tea. We return the glass bottles to the store and recycle the plastic tops. See how it's done! ■
Once and a while I'll buy heaving whipping cream that's also packaged in glass to make whipped cream and butter. I also buy milk occasionally in glass for granola, or hot chocolate during the holidays. ■■
Condiments: I make aioli at home and use dijon mustard from a jar to do so. I also buy miso, ketchup and tahini in glass. We go through these items very slowly, so they are rarely in the recycle bin. The only other condiment we buy is a Puerto Rican pique sauce because it's so darn delicious and hard to re-create at home (we don't have access to all the peppers required to make the hot sauce). Check out my post about Puerto Rican Nachos! ■■■
Receipts: Paper receipts are often unavoidable and most contain the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA), a known endocrine disrupter. Thankfully the grocery store where I work and shop uses BPA free receipt paper and has a paperless option for all debit/credit transactions. Other places I shop do not have a "no receipt" option yet. ■
Junk Mail: I've cancelled my junk mail and contacted some of the credit card companies that send me offers in the mail. We still get junk mail. Putting a sign on the mail box requesting no junk mail is not effective because the mail person is a messenger and legally has to deliver everything that has your address on it. ■
Pasta: There's only one store here that carries pasta noodles in bulk that aren't made from rice--it's out of the way though! When my boyfriend wants "complete meal" for dinner (veggie stir fry, pasta, and sausage), I will buy him noodles in a paper box that can be recycled. I buy rice noodles in bulk for me. ■■
School: I'm a student, and I'm not paperless. I love when professors make all their class material digital, but not all teachers are the same, and some still hand out paper syllabi and expect typed essays to be printed on paper and handed in. I cannot take notes on a computer. I need to physically write things down to retain the information. I also think that writing is an important practice and skill that is rapidly disappearing because of technology. I use recycled paper sparingly. To read more about how I reduce trash waste in college, check out my post. ■■
Beer: We might drink the occasional canned beer because it's crisp and refreshing. I'm not above canned beer. ■■■
Canned Food: As I've mentioned in previous posts, my boyfriend and I both work for a grocery store and get culled food for free. So if a can of beans gets dropped on the floor, or is delivered with dents in it, it cannot be sold. Let no food go to waste! We sometimes buy beans in a can in a pinch, but that's rare. ■■
Tops: The tops to the miso, tahini, ketchup and dijon mustard that we bought last year are made of metal and can be recycled. They won't be hitting the recycling for a while though. Maybe in another year....■■■
Plastic is not completely avoidable if you want to be a functioning human in our current society. The contents in my trash jar speak to this, as they are completely made up of plastic that cannot or will not be recycled.
Lids: Lids are often made out of plastic, which makes finding a product in a glass jar with a metal lid that much more exciting! Here are the things that I buy that sometimes have plastic lids:
- supplements, vitamins, and minerals
- essentail oils
- milk, cream, & half n half
First Aid: We have a bottle of hydrogen peroxide in the house. We've had it for over three years. It's nice to know it's there for scrapes and cuts. Health and safety will always be a priority in my Circular Lifestyle. Hopefully in a few more years when I have to buy another bottle of hydrogen peroxide, there will be a glass packaged option! ■■■
Birth Control: This is a very frustrating area for me, as I'm not happy with any of the methods of contraception that are available. The following information is my opinion and has to do with my body only. If you have a birth control that works for you--that's great! Right now I'm on the pill, which means taking hormones every single day, and I don't like it. There are other hormone emitting options like the bar that they insert in your arm--oh my god hell no! There is also the copper IUD which doesn't emit hormones, but it is painful to put in and can increase flow and menstrual pain. The idea of having a permanent copper fixture inside my uterus is as scary to me as the bar in the arm. The pill I take comes in a hard plastic pouch that my recycling center said will get recycled--I hope that's true. The pills themselves are in an aluminum foil sheet, which I can also recycle. It's not perfect or ideal, but it's the best I can do. I'm thankful that I have access to birth control, as many women don't. Everyone has the right to be healthy and safe--I support reproductive rights! ■■