Beverly Homecoming's Lobsterfest two weeks ago achieved great success in its efforts to recycle. The team on-hand sorted waste quickly and efficiently. Plastics, aluminum cans, paper, food waste, and the little trash that could not be recycled or composted were managed to near-perfection.
While our houses and public places are not catered to with an arsenal of astute volunteers, there are ways we can it easier to recycle at home and out in public. The following Green Quick Fixes will help you boost your recycling performance.
Separate paper, plastic, glass, cans, and cardboard in a closet in your home or outside where you keep your trash.
Use small trash barrels for recycling where you would keep large trash bins. Because you are recycling, you'll be generating far less trash and won't need mammoth barrels! In fact, your largest recycling container is likely going to be the one that holds plastic bottles.
Keep a bag in your car for coffee cups, paper, and other recyclables that you accumulate on the go.
Recycle as much paper as possible — mail, receipts, clothing tags, packaging for food and other products, even window envelopes (the window is sorted out by machines). It requires far less energy to make paper from recycled pulp than raw wood pulp. Almost all paper can be recycled.
Get bins! Large recycling toters for paper and smaller bins are often available at a discount to residents. Check with your local city hall for more information.
Reuse brown paper grocery store bags for holding newspapers you are saving for the recycling pickup.
Reuse greeting cards and calendar artwork for postcards, notecards, and more.
Reuse glass jars, plastic containers, and aluminum lids for crafts or in the workshop.
Set aside all aluminum — jar covers, can tabs, even candy wrappers—and put them with your aluminum cans to be recycled.
Use as little cold water as possible when cleaning out glass and plastic food jars. In my opinion, it's not always worth wasting a lot of energy and water to clean out a recyclable container. Try soaking and shaking up containers rather than repeated rinsing. You can also use dishwater twice by pouring the water used to rinse your glassware right into a container you want to recycle rather than directly into the drain.
Buy recycled paper for your home office. Also, numerous Web sites offer products, ranging from toilet paper to clothing, which contain recycled content. Buying recycled products for your home will lower your carbon footprint and promotes energy savings in the marketplace.
Reuse plastic bags for pet waste or as packaging material for mailing and gifts. Stray plastic bags are an absolute menace to oceans and sea life. If you have plastic bags that you are not going to reuse, recycle them at the supermarket. Also, reusable cloth grocery bags are widely available and are often given out for free. Use them as much as possible.
Think twice before throwing out furniture and other household items. They can always be donated or reused. For example, an unsightly, but highly functional piece of veneer furniture can be made amazing by roughing it with sandpaper, and then painting it with textured wall paint. Stencils, decoupage, and other methods can turn a cast aside item into a favorite new piece for your home.
Look for recycling bins when you are out in public. They are becoming more common, especially at planned public events. Be sure to dispose of plastic cups, paper cups, paper plates, aluminum cans, plastic bottles, and other items in the correct bin.
FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TIPS on waste, recycling, and reuse in Massachusetts, go to www.mass.gov/dep/recycle/reducere.htm. This Department of Environmental Protection Web site also has numerous links for composting, green building, donation resources, and more.
Andrea Fox, a Beverly resident, has been writing about environmental sustainability and eco-topics for eight years. She is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and a watershed protection advocate in Salem Sound Watershed.