Read, Reuse, Recycle

thumbnail_GAMRecyclingCoverThis summer, it’s all about recycling. At least for us it is—our new issue of the Green American is out, and in it we’re investigating a major pillar of environmentalism: recycling. While countries around the world are recycling 50-80 percent of their waste, the US sits at 34 percent. This summer, we asked how we could step it up, to push ourselves to higher standards of recycling, whether we’re recycling 34 percent or 64 percent. How could we push our families, our cities, and our country further?

In this issue, we urge shareholders to be activists, to encourage corporations to recycle and cut down on non-recyclable waste; we look into what people are doing in countries and cities around the world that we could adopt and ask, is recycling doomed? (we hope not); we introduce readers to a couple who shrank their waste to almost nothing; we teach you how not to contaminate your single-stream recycling; we meet communities of color fighting back against air pollution from recycling facilities. Plus, we keep you up to date with Green America’s bold ideas and campaign work.

The main reason to recycle is to slow or stop the amount of materials the world must keep producing. Plastics, for example, rely on petroleum so the more the same plastics can be reused, the less reliant we have to be on that nonrenewable resource. Or with glass, the energy needed to recycle one product into another is less than is needed to create new bottles and jars. The energy saved could be reducing the need for fossil fuels to be burned for electricity. The US Energy Information Administration estimates that 67 percent of US electricity came from fossil fuels in 2015.

We hope you’ll start your journey to better recycling here, with nine ways to take your recycling to the next level.

  1. Reduce and reuse
    The less you throw away, the better off the planet will be.
  2. Don’t “wish-cycle”
    Get a list of the items your local recycler accepts and put only those into your recycling bins.
  3. Use recycling best practices
    Fend off recycling contamination with our tips, which are included in the issue and will be coming online next week—watch this space!
  4. Don’t landfill your food waste
    Food waste is the single largest component of waste headed into US landfills, at 18 percent. Instead, it could be turned into rich compost to make the soil healthier and able to sequester more carbon. Get Green America’s best composting tips.
  5. Be mindful about e-waste
    Many “recyclers” send electronic waste to developing countries, where it’s dismantled by hand, harming workers and the environment. Certified E-Stewards recyclers ensure that your electronics are recycled responsibly. Find one near you at
  6. Recycle your “weird” things
    See Green America’s list of “21 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Recycle”.
  7. Support Extended Producer Responsibility
    Pressure corporations to use less packaging, make their packaging easily recyclable, and take back hard-to-recycle packaging and products. Vote for shareholder resolutions that encourage companies to launch recycling and take-back programs, and encourage your members of Congress to support extended producer responsibility laws at the state and federal level.
  8. Network with zero-waste communities
    Eco-cycle’s “Zero-Waste Map” allows you to find zero-waste policies and programs working today in communities just like yours across the US. If you’re fighting off an incinerator, the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives is a worldwide alliance of more than 800 groups working toward zero waste, environmental justice, and an end to incinerators. Members work together and share resources in a variety of ways.
  9. Find expert assistance for your community
    The Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Waste to Wealth program helps communities across the US fight incinerators and landfills, and research, demonstrate, and plan recycling, composting, and zero-waste community programs.
    The Econservation Institute’s Pay As You Throw Now website offers a wealth of information on implementing a pay-as-you-throw program in your community to encourage recycling and composting and discourage sending trash to the landfill or incinerator. The Institute also offers webinars to learn more about pay-as-you-throw programs.

To get the magazine in your mailbox or inbox every month, subscribe to the Green American. To read more about recycling, check back here through August as we post the stories.

—Eleanor Greene, associate editor 

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