Earth Day is a good time to reflect on our individual impacts on the planet and what we can do. Waste prevention and recycling is a great place to start. Recycling is a great way to be actively helping our environment. The benefits of recycling go far beyond the materials we keep out of our landfills. By preventing waste from entering landfills and by recycling, we conserve resources, prevent pollution and protect the environment.
Recycling does make a real difference. Consider that the average household in California generates almost 1.2 tons of garbage a year. That's almost eight pounds per day per household!
By recycling we can reduce the need to continually mine virgin resources in new product production and reduce the amount of methane generated from landfills. For example, for every ton of paper recycled, over 17 trees and 7000 gallons of water can be saved.
Also, if California were to just increase our current recycling rates by 25 percent for commonly disposed materials (paper, bottles and cans), we could reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by over 5 million tons. California currently has a recycling rate of just over 52 percent.
California has come a long way in the last three decades when it comes to recycling. Since the inception of California's Bottle Bill, Californians have recycled over 300 billion beverage containers (that's over 10 million tons). Bottle and can recycling has helped establish an entire recycling industry and has added hundreds of thousands of jobs to California's economy.
Since the start of California's Electronic Waste Recycling Act in 2005, more than 500 recycling centers have opened around the state with more than 250 million pounds of e-waste recycled.
In addition, recycling has helped stimulate the development of greener technologies, by creating more products made from materials that are easily recyclable or compostable.
But there is more that we can and must do. Below are some simple recycling and waste diversion solutions.
Here are three things businesses should do:
- Provide on-site recycling opportunities for the company and its employees, especially for paper and beverage containers. Most businesses generate large amounts of paper every day!
- Promote a culture of sustainability at the workplace through education and incentives.
- Do analyses on the amount of waste generated in daily operations to find effective ways to decrease exhaustion of resources that can affect the bottom line. The analysis should cover everything from energy consumption to trash hauling.
Here are three things local governments should do:
- Site additional recycling and composting facilities within the jurisdiction, and use your purchasing power to buy recycled products for city offices and compost for city parks and landscaping.
- Make sure curbside recycling opportunities are available to all residents, including those in single family homes and multifamily dwellings.
- Pass city ordinances prohibiting the disposal of readily-recyclable construction and demolition debris and requiring commercial businesses to recycle the waste that they generate.
Here are three things Individuals can do:
- Make use of your curbside recycling opportunities and if you currently do not have one, lobby your local government to get curbside to your jurisdiction or if you live in an apartment, talk to your manager about making recycling bins available.
- Start composting in your backyard, or, if you don't have a yard, get a worm bin or put your food waste and green waste in your green cart (if your city allows it).
- Try your best at reusing items before tossing them out, including reusing paper for notes and glass jars to collect coins.
And there are still many more ways to help our environment by making simple changes in our lives. Check out CAW's Living Green page for more tips to reduce, reuse and recycle.