When my family began our journey toward a zero waste life, we succeeded in reducing our waste; but, as a result, our recycling bin was fuller. We soon realized that reducing our waste and recycling more were good things; however, the next step en route to zero waste was to reduce our recycling as well. I think it’s a misconception that you go zero waste by recycling as much as possible. Now, don’t get me wrong: recycling is by far better than filling the trash bin that will fill up a landfill, but the goal of living a waste-less life should be reducing waste AND recycling.
Recycling is a great way to reduce emissions in the atmosphere. It saves lots of natural resources and reduces the amount of waste buried in landfills that creates methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas. Waste in landfills also tends to contain chemicals that might leak into the environment and water, and pollute the planet, and cause harm to both humans and wildlife.
But as good as recycling is, it still takes raw material and energy to make these items. Some of them, like plastic, tend to have a short life when recycled, so are usually downcycled instead. It still might contain chemicals and other harmful materials, plus it still requires transportation to collect and transport recycled materials.
So, one of the best ways to reduce waste AND recycling in order to practice a more zero waste life style is not to create any waste in the first place. Here are some great ways to reduce both waste and recycling:
- Bring reusable shopping bags, produce bags and containers when shopping.
- Pack work lunches and school lunches in reusable containers and water bottles.
- Choose products that are returnable, reusable and refillable rather than disposable.
- Skip individually wrapped products and single-serve containers.
- Buy bulk items as much as possible, and use reusable cloth bags or bring glass jars instead of plastic or paper bags.
- Buy shampoo, conditioner, lotion, dish soap and laundry detergent in bulk if possible, or buy in concentrated form.
- Compost all food scraps and yard waste.
- Reduce unwanted mail, and sign up for online payments and electronic bills.
- Skip magazine and newspaper subscriptions.
- Borrow books and movies from the library.
- Buy secondhand or used clothes, furniture and toys.