Happy New Year. Believe it or not, January is here and it is already time to put your New Year’s resolutions into action. Whether you’re thinking about a new exercise routine, career goals or learning a new skill, I’m hoping you’ll leave some room on your list for a waste reduction goal, or two.
I also know life gets busy and priorities shift, so our team of recycling and waste reduction experts has a few suggestions for easy-to-keep resolutions to start this year sustainably.
1. When cooking at home, use what’s already in your pantry. Did you know Americans waste 150,000 tons of food each day – equal to a pound per person? Let’s make 2019 the year to change that. Make use of what you have on hand to save on food and money. When grocery shopping, stick to your list, purchase just the essentials, and bring along a reusable bag for checkout. Getting creative with leftovers and meal-planning for the week ahead will keep your taste buds, wallet and the planet happy. If you do find yourself with food waste, unused food and food scraps can go in the food and yard waste cart to be composted.
2. Take a few extra minutes each day to ensure your recyclables are empty, clean and dry before they go in the cart. It has been a year since China enacted stricter recycling policies for cleaner materials. The new policies have forced a global reset for recycling because China has historically been the world’s primary purchaser of mixed paper and plastics. These changes have reinforced the importance of making sure recyclables are empty and clean to guarantee they’ll be repurposed. So, when recycling all of your paper, glass, plastic, cans and cardboard, just make sure they’re ready to be made into something new.
3. Leave single-use plastics in 2018. We produce roughly 300 million tons of plastic each year and half of it is disposable. This year commit to making the switch to a reusable water bottle and bringing metal utensils for your lunch at work. Also, do your part to keep plastic bags out of the recycling. Place your recyclables loose in the cart. Bagged recyclables often look like garbage at the recycling facility, so they end up at the landfill. And, when those bags break, they get tangled in the equipment at the recycling facility, creating maintenance delays that slow the process and make recycling more expensive for our community.
Even if that “eat healthier in 2019” resolution isn’t sticking, you can feel good about recycling your clean, dry, empties, checking your pantry before going shopping, and making smart choices about reusable containers. When you recycle, you are giving used materials a second chance at life. This year we can all help create more efficient, sustainable recycling and food systems starting here in Snoqualmie.
Hannah Scholes is Waste Management’s recycling education and outreach manager. Help clean up recycling with tools and tips at RecycleOftenRecycleRight.com.