Every year, people around the world produce millions of tons of waste. What we do with these waste products, and the rate at which we produce them, is intimately linked to the overall health of our planet. Recycling, the practice of reusing or repurposing waste materials, is one way that we can combat the steadily climbing rate of our waste production.
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Of course, to stem the tide of mass-scale pollution, recycling will serve as only one component in a far larger effort to reduce our waste production. Many environmental organizations and advisory committees encourage recycling along with reuse and reduction.

Reuse refers to using manufactured items multiple times instead of throwing them away. Reduction refers to an overall slowing of our rate of production and manufacturing. While individuals may feel that can contribute by only a tiny degree, recycling programs remain one of the largest-scale efforts against pollution, and one that most of us have right at our fingertips.

General Recycling Information

In many parts of the world, municipal or regional programs are in place to assist individuals, businesses and industries in recycling particular subsets of the total waste they produce. In the United States, many cities or counties feature recycling programs, which work in tandem with their general garbage disposal operations.

The particular guidelines and protocols for recycling can vary from one place to another. In general, programs require individuals to separate recyclable objects from general refuse. It’s worth consulting with your local recycling agency for further location-specific information. In some communities, where recycling is highly valued by the local population, the collection of recycled goods is on par with the rate of general garbage collection. In other areas, only a relatively small share of an individual’s total waste is channeled to the recycling program.

Recycling Plastic Bags

Plastic bags are ubiquitous at nearly any supermarket, pharmacy, or other shop. At many stores, every time that consumers purchase an item, they receive a standard plastic shopping bag to take that item home in. According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, United States shoppers used over 100 billion plastic shopping bags in 2008, alone. In some places, this glut of shopping bags is being addressed, with the ability to recycle standard plastic bags; however, note that guidelines can vary. While one county may accept plastic bags along with general plastic refuse, another program may require that you segregate plastic bags from other plastic items. Other programs may not accept plastic bags at all.

Recycling Other Forms of Plastic

Plastic isn’t only found in standard grocery bags. It’s also a leading material in the packaging for all kinds of products, from foodstuffs to detergents. In most parts of the United States, plastic bottles and tubs are labeled with numbers, ranging from 1 to 7. Depending on the local recycling program, individuals may recycle any plastic bottles or tubs that bear specific numbers. In addition, some plastics are compostable, meaning they are made from biodegradable materials. These plastics might be inappropriate for standard “plastic recycling”, and instead appropriate for tossing into your compost bin.

Practical Recycling Resources

If you’re interested in contributing to the worldwide recycling effort, just a few simple steps can take you a long way. For most individuals, the first step is to learn about the local recycling programs already in place. If you live in a place without a recycling program, you may be able to help rally support to launch a local program in your community. Numerous recycling organizations are designed to connect you with the resources you need. In addition, many individuals realize that they can dramatically increase their influence by bringing recycling habits to the workplace. By championing a recycling effort in the office, you may start a change that spreads company-wide. Taking action of this kind can produce a much larger “ripple effect” than the changes you could affect within your household, alone.

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