The Fruitful Life

Becoming a Recycling Guru, Part 2

Becoming a Recycling Guru, Part 2

Founder & CEO of SCARCE, Kay McKeen, joins us again for Part 2 of Becoming a Recycling Guru (You can check out Part 1 here!). She continues to give us insider tips and tricks on becoming the most eco-friendly consumers we can be! 

Avoid “Tanglers”

Many things can clog recycling machines, causing the whole plant to shut down and costing them time and money. These “tanglers” include plastic bags, ribbons, yarn, twine, ropes, garden hoses, and holiday lights. But if we can’t recycle them, what should we do with them? “Try to reuse them, or drop them off at SCARCE,” says Kay. “We have 40 holiday light drop-offs in DuPage to rescue copper and brass, and not tangle machinery! It’s also state law to keep plastic bags out of your recycling bin.” Instead, ask your local grocery store, Target, or Kohl’s for proper plastic bag recycling.

Don’t be a wishful recycler!

“There’s a thing we call hopeful or ‘wishful recycling’: when people recycle everything [including non-recyclables] assuming that recycling workers know best and will sort it out. This is actually damaging because it exponentially increases the garbage that recycling plants get, forcing them to hire outside garbage companies. This makes it more expensive for you and me, and even stops whole programs. 20-30% of what people recycle is estimated to be garbage. That’s a HUGE problem for our recycling facilities!"

SCARCE can use your trash for art

“We look for artists to supply things they need. One is an artist in Elmhurst who uses old encyclopedias. She made a chair out of red leather encyclopedia covers! Isn’t that something? There’s another guy, Art by Joseph, in Geneva who collects metals, rusty rakes and such. We have 2 of his sculptures, Waiting Bird and a robot piece. He’s also done commissions along the Fox River and for the Wheaton Park District.”

Pre-cycle before you recycle

“You’ve heard ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’, and recycling gets the most buzz. However, it’s better to think before you buy. Let’s say you go to the store for eggs. The paper egg carton is compostable, not recyclable. If you buy them in Styrofoam cartons, workers were exposed to terrible chemicals making them, and they’re not easily recyclable or biodegradable-- but plastic cartons are recyclable.”

“Shampoo or lotion [squeeze] tubes aren’t recyclable at all! Plus, it’s easier to get shampoo out of a bottle. You can put a little water in, and shake it to get the last drop. The goal is less waste!" Kay also mentioned that she loves reusable bags for gift-giving, and has one large felt-wrapped box she uses and reuses for bigger presents. “Kids are like, ‘It’s the birthday box!’ It’s kind of a tradition now!” Of course, she re-uses the ribbons too.

Know the Benefits

“I’m very concerned about health. When we recycle, we save financial resources, reduce mining, and create less air and water pollution. 1 in 10 kids have asthma, and lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the USA. This shows us that we need to reduce air pollution. We also need our water to be clean-- free of heavy metals and medicines that we try and flush down the toilet. (Use a medicine collection bin instead!) When foods are composted, it's fine in the water. If it's a fruit, the seed will grow a tree, and the decomposing fruit will enrich the soil. When we keep the soil, water, and air healthy, we can be healthy. This can be achieved by copying systems that the Earth has set up. It benefits our health, our kids, our grandkids, and the future.

Are you ready to become a recycling guru? What is your favorite recycling or eco-conscious tip? Let us know in the comments below!

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