Reuse, reduce, recycle: it is the mantra of everyone looking to lower their environmental footprint and live a more sustainable lifestyle. In this article, we’ll focus on the first of those – the importance of reusing and, in particular, switching from single-use to reusable household items.
The myth of infinite recycling
When we sort our trash for recycling, many of us believe that everything we sort will go through the recycling process and that this is something that can be done indefinitely. Time to bust some myths! Not all the trash we put in the recycling bin gets recycled, for multiple reasons. You may also be engaging in wishful recycling – adding non-recyclable items into the recycling bin in the hopes that they will be recycled anyhow, which just isn’t the case.
In addition, as recycling became significantly less profitable after China, the world’s largest market for recycled waste, banned the import of waste for recycling in 2018, many recycling facilities started throwing recyclable waste away (to the landfill or the environment) because they couldn’t profit from recycling the material or simply couldn’t keep up with the demand.
Aside from this, much of the waste we sort for recycling can only be recycled a handful of times. Plastic can typically only go through the process once or a maximum of three times since the quality of the material reduces quite quickly. It’s a similar story with paper, although it can be recycled up to 7 times. The two materials which can be recycled indefinitely are glass and metal.
Among all the horrible things that are littering our environment, plastic is the most notorious. It’s basically poison that we’re hurting ourselves with, our wildlife, marine life, and the environment as a whole. Until now, only nine percent of the plastic waste in the whole world has been recycled. The vast majority - 79 percent - is accumulating in landfills or sloughing off in the natural environment as litter. It means that, at some point, much of it ends up in the oceans, the final sink.
What can we do about that
What does this mean? Should we just stop recycling altogether? No, recycling is still a great thing to do, but it should be more as a last resort when you can’t prevent creating waste.
The best way to make sure you produce as little waste as possible is to switch to reusable products, which can last much longer and therefore create substantially less waste. In our homes, we often use single-use products which could easily be substituted with reusable household items.
For example, the kitchen is where we generate most of our waste. Your paper napkins could be swapped for fabric napkins and instead of using baking paper, you can switch to a reusable silicone baking mat. You can also find reusable options for the sandwich bag, grocery bags, produce bags, coffee filter, paper towels, water bottle, among other products.
In the bathroom, there are also several reusable items like cloth pads or a silicone menstrual cup, cloth diapers, stainless steel razor, and makeup remover pads.
You won’t have to dispose of waste if it’s not created in the first place – and that’s the main benefit of reusable products.