Recycling and composting - what's the difference and what's the best option? Let's dive in to determine when to recycle and when to compost.
Understanding the Basics
Before we talk specifics, it's crucial to grasp the basic principles.
Recycling involves processing materials (used or waste) to make them suitable for reintroducing as new products. By doing so, we reduce the need for raw materials and the energy required to create new products and all their raw materials. But one thing to note, recycling IS a business, and if the materials collected won't turn a profit, it's not an effective process *cough* plastics....
- Saves Energy: It requires less energy to repurpose old items than making new ones.
- Reduces Waste: Less trash means less landfill space needed.
- Conserves Natural Resources: By recycling, we cut down on the need for new raw materials to be cut down, mined, or processed.
Composting, on the other hand, is the natural process of breaking down organic matter, like food scraps and yard waste to decompose naturally, resulting in nutrient-rich soil. It's nature’s way of recycling! Composting not only diverts waste from landfills but also replenishes the earth, making it a sustainable cycle of giving back to our planet.
- Soil Enrichment: Compost provides vital nutrients to the soil.
- Reduces Methane: Organic waste in landfills produces methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. Composting prevents this.
- Promotes Eco Living: It reduces the need for chemical fertilizers and reduces waste sent to landfills.
Let's Talk Recycling: What Goes Where?
1. Paper: Most clean paper can be recycled. This includes newspapers, office paper, and cardboard. However, greasy pizza boxes? Not so much.
2. Glass: Clear, green, and brown glass bottles and jars can typically be recycled. However, not all glass products, like light bulbs or ceramic dishes, belong in the recycling bin. Check with your local recycling center to see what they accept.
3. Metals: Confidently recycle your aluminum cans, soup cans and balls of clean aluminum foil. However, be mindful and refrain from adding any hazardous items like razor blades and needles. Have a safety razor. See our guide here on how to recycle the blades properly.
4. Plastics: This is where it gets tricky. Not all plastics are recyclable. Always check the bottom for the recycling symbol with a number inside to determine its recyclability. Most recycling centers will accept 1's, 2's and 5's only, but be sure to check with your municipality.
5. Electronics: E-waste like computers, mobile phones, and TVs shouldn’t go into regular waste. Many cities have special recycling programs for them.
Composting: Nature's Recycling Bin
1. Fruit and Vegetable Scraps: From apple cores to zucchini ends, your plant-based kitchen scraps are compost gold.
2. Eggshells: Crush them and throw them in. They add calcium to your compost.
3. Coffee Grounds and Filters: A morning ritual that’s great for your plants.
4. Grass Clippings and Yard Waste: These green materials provide essential nitrogen to your compost pile.
5. Leaves: They're rich in carbon, balancing the nitrogen in your compost.
6. Hair and Fur: Surprising, right? But they compost quite well.
7. Newspaper and paper: Tear them up and add them. However, remember colored prints might have inks that are not compost-friendly.
Exceptions and Restrictions
- Pizza Boxes: Here's the deal. If it’s greasy, it can’t be recycled, but it can be composted. How-To-Video HERE
- Plastic-Coated Paper: These are generally not recyclable or compostable. It's best to reduce usage.
- Dairy and Meat Products: While they can technically be composted, they tend to attract pests. It’s safer to exclude them from backyard composting.
Where Does Paper Belong?
Paper, being an everyday item, often finds its way into our waste. But here lies the dilemma: should it be composted or recycled? With the rise in eco-awareness, it's essential to know the right path. Let's break this down with confidence and clarity.
Understanding Paper's Nature
Firstly, it's crucial to understand that paper originates from wood, a natural resource. Over time, in the right conditions, paper will break down and decompose. But, when recycled, it can be repurposed into new paper products, reducing the need to cut down more trees. Typically, paper/cardboard can be recycled 5-7x.
When to Compost Paper?
1. Contaminated Paper: If your paper is heavily soiled or greasy (think pizza boxes), it's not suitable for recycling. Such paper products can and should be composted instead.
2. Non-Recyclable Paper: Items like tissues, paper towels, or napkins that can't typically be recycled due to their fibers being too short or they are soiled so compost them!
When to Recycle Paper?
1. Clean Paper: If your paper is clean and free from contaminants, it's best to recycle. This includes newspapers, office papers, envelopes, and non-greasy cardboard.
2. Quality Matters: Higher quality papers like printer paper or glossy magazines are best recycled to reclaim the value of the fibers.
The Cork Conundrum: Recycle or Compost?
Cork, stemming from the bark of cork oak trees, is both biodegradable and renewable. When it comes to disposal, here's the rundown:
Recycling Cork: While cork can be repurposed into items like floor tiles and insulation, not all recycling centers handle it. Specialized programs or drop-offs might be your go-to for recycling cork.
Composting Cork: Its organic nature means cork can be composted. If choosing this route, breaking it into smaller pieces will aid in faster decomposition.
How to Recycle Cork
It takes nearly 25 years for a cork tree trunk to start to produce cork, so it's beneficial to recycle > compost. If you've amassed a collection of cork from wine bottles or other sources, know that recycling them is the best option to care for our mother earth.
1. Specialized Cork Recycling Programs: There are organizations and initiatives specifically dedicated to recycling cork. For instance, ReCORK, one of North America’s largest cork recycling programs, collects and repurposes cork into sustainable products.
2. Wine Retailers and Wineries: Some wine shops and wineries participate in cork recycling programs, serving as drop-off points. Before heading out, give a quick call to your local wine store to confirm if they accept cork for recycling.
3. Crafting and Community Centers: While not "recycling" in the traditional sense, many craft centers or community workshops gladly accept cork donations. They repurpose these corks into art projects, bulletin boards, and other crafty endeavors.
When considering recycling cork, make sure they are free from significant contamination or any non-cork materials. And remember, recycling ensures that cork doesn't go to waste and gets a new lease on life!
Safeguard our Planet
Recycling and composting are essential practices that can significantly benefit our Mother Earth. Recycling helps conserve valuable resources by reusing materials like paper, plastic, and metal, reducing the need for virgin resources and cutting down on energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions associated with their production. Composting, on the other hand, diverts organic waste from landfills, where it would release harmful methane gas, and instead transforms it into nutrient-rich soil conditioner for agriculture. By incorporating these eco-friendly habits into our daily lives, we not only reduce waste and pollution but also contribute to the preservation of natural resources and the mitigation of climate change. Recycling and composting are simple yet powerful ways for individuals to play a part in safeguarding the environment for future generations.