The Fruitful Life

Becoming a Recycling Guru, Part 1

Becoming a Recycling Guru, Part 1

We know you’re a recycler, but are you a recycling guru? Today, we talked to real-life recycling guru Kay McKeen, Founder and CEO of SCARCE. For those who aren't familiar with this non-profit organization, the mission of SCARCE is to protect the Earth through education, pollution prevention, and their rescuing projects for various household materials. Recently, Kay’s been hard at work sending a massive amount of used books to flood, tornado, and hurricane victims all over America. Despite the rush, she joins Fruitful Yield today to help us hone our craft in this first post in a 2-part series (watch for part 2 next week!).

Speak recycling more fluently

Search what items your state can recycle online, or find a recycling center near you. Plastic containers may have recycling symbols on them, but other mediums like glass, cardboard, and aluminum are often acceptable. Furthermore, according to Kay, “Plastics with a number inside the recycle symbol only tell you what kind of plastic it is, not whether they’re recyclable or not. When plastic goes to a factory, they’re sorted into bins using these numbers. Plastics with numbers 1, 2, 4, 5, and sometimes 7 are acceptable in the state of IL. Do not buy or try to recycle plastics 3 or 6. We use the slogan ‘No 3 for me!’ because this PVC plastic is a neurotoxin.”

Stay up-to-date

Often, the rules you learned about recycling growing up have been updated, thanks to new and improved technology. “People remember removing plastic bottle caps before recycling, but keep it on! This is due to improved processing to separate different types of plastic, and then there are less stray caps during pick up. This all adds up to recycling more petroleum, and less litter. It’s very exciting really!”

Rinse and repeat

 When you toss something in the recycling bin, is it clean or crusty? Make sure plastics, glass, and cans are clean before recycling them. This ensures they don’t get thrown out with the trash when they get to the recycling center! While you’re at it, remove any stickers you see. “Labels on pop bottles are actually a type of Styrofoam, which isn’t recyclable,” says Kay.

In fact, ditch Styrofoam all together

“It’s actually illegal in IL to put Styrofoam [aka Polystyrene] in your recycling bin,” Kay notes. Plus, according to the EPA blog, “[Once in] a landfill, it stays there: it can take more than a million years for a polystyrene product to decompose.” Even unsuspecting products like Red Solo Cups are made of this stubborn material. Instead, Kay recommends buying products in glass. "You can reuse leftover glass jars as food and drink containers, which you can reuse, freeze, and microwave food in" (without the lid, of course!).

Like what you read? Then please join us here next week for part 2! In the meantime, share your favorite recycling tips with us in the comments below!


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