STAR Central Texas Recycling Committee Rural Recycling Guide:
Grassroots Recycling and Why It Matters
Perhaps no one appreciates a wide, open space more than a Texan—especially the state's rural folks. But a wide-open space can't be fully appreciated unless it's clean and green; and with the population on the rise in the Lone Star State, it's becoming more of a challenge to keep trash out of our landfills and off our roads. Fortunately, some of the state's best innovators are finding ways to eliminate waste completely through multiple channels of recycling. And while many Texas cities are targeting zero-waste goals in the comingdecades, more and more of the state's small towns and other rural areas also are recycling, keeping more trash out of our landfills and more money back in our pockets via resale and rebate checks from returned recyclables. But despite those efforts, rural Texans can, and should do more to accomplish zero-waste/cradle-to-cradle recycling. The rural objective of STAR's Central Texas Recycling Committee is to educate and find solutions for rural parts of Texas interested in recycling, eliminating waste and saving money. It's simple: recycling helps preserve our air, land and waters. Let’s keep our stars big and bright; Recycle, Reuse, Renew. Save our state, save our world.
1) From IWantToBeRecycled.com, The Recycling Loop:
The recycling process begins when individuals place recyclable products and packages in a recycling bin. The second step is when a company processes those recycled materials and creates new products. Finally, consumers close the loop by buying recycled material. This final step restarts the cycle and ensures the success and value of recycling (Also known as zero-waste and cradle-to-cradle recycling).
2) The US EPA has a minute-long animated video describing The Story of Reuse:
II. 30 Important (and Often Shocking) Recycling Facts:
1) Courtesy of Keep America Beautiful; Excerpt from Ed Hume’s book: Garbology
“What is America's largest export, most prodigious product and greatest legacy—the biggest thing we make? Our trash. Each of us is on track to toss 102 tons of garbage in a lifetime, 7.1 pounds a day, every day.
2) Per 2012 EPA data, only 34 percent of waste material is recycled each year.
3) From IWanttoBeRecycled.org, The automobile is the most recycled consumer product in the world. Nearly all cars around the world are recovered for recycling. Almost every car around the world is recycled.
4) From STAR (, A glass bottle takes about one million years to decompose, an aluminum can takes between 200-500 years. Plastics float in waterways, plugging streams and killing fish. Those plastic bottles will be around for about 70 years if left as litter.
5) It takes plastic grocery-style bags at least a decade to decompose.
6) From inhabitat.com, Sweden now recycles/reuses 99 percent of its waste, and will soon import 800,000 tons of garbage each year to recycle.
7) From National Geographic survey, February 2008; published on recyclingatwork.org,
More than 80 percent of US workers polled said they believe it is important to work for a company or organization that makes the environment a top priority.
8) The following facts are from recycleacrossamerica.org, Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour.
9) Recycling one ton of plastic bottles saves the equivalent energy usage of a two-person household for one year.
10) Every three months, Americans throw enough aluminum in the landfills to build our nation’s entire commercial air fleet.
11) Recycling a single aluminum can saves enough energy to power a TV for three hours.
12) It requires 95 percent less energy and water to recycle a can than it does to create a can from virgin materials.
13) Americans throw away enough office paper each year to build a 12-foot high wall from Seattle to New York (a new wall every year).
14) Recycling a stack of newspaper just three-feet high saves one tree.
15) Making paper from recycled paper reduces the related contribution to air pollution 95 percent.
16) Glass can be recycled and re-manufactured an infinite amount of times and never wear out.
17) Making glass from recycled material cuts related water pollution by 50 percent.
18) Recycling just one glass jar saves enough electricity to light an 11 watt CFL bulb for 20 hours.
19) More than 28 billion glass bottles and jars end up in landfills every year—that is the equivalent of filling up two Empire State Buildings every three weeks.
20) Recycling cardboard only takes 75 percent of the energy needed to make new cardboard.
21) Recycling one ton of cardboard saves 46 gallons of oil.
22) Over 90 percent of all products shipped in the US are shipped in corrugated boxes, which totals more than 400 billion square feet of cardboard—all of this is recyclable.
23) Nearly 80 percent of all retailers and grocers recycle their cardboard.
24) In 1998, the National Safety Council study estimated about 20 million computers became obsolete within one year. In 2007, that number increased to 40 million (Where is it today?! Answer pending…).
25) Food and paper waste used for food can be composted into nutrient rich soil and sold to farmers.
26) Almost half of the food in the U.S. goes to waste—approximately 3,000 pounds per second.
27) Many schools and businesses are starting to compost food waste on site.
28) Currently less than 35 percent of households and less than 10 percent of businesses in the U.S. recycle (What’s the percentage in rural areas specifically? Not clear.).
29) Those levels have barely improved in 15 years despite billions of dollars spent on competitions, symposiums, awareness campaigns and sorting technologies.
30) If the U.S. recycling levels can reach 75 percent it will be the environmental benefit of removing 50 million cars from the road each year and it will generate 1.5 million new jobs. Improving and increasing recycling is one of the greatest opportunities for our environment, our natural resources, and our economy!
III. WHAT (can be recycled)?
From Keep America Beautiful: Busting Recycling Myths:
1) Trash haulers do not take material from recycling receptacles to the dump.
2) It's okay to keep staples and binder clips attached to to-be-recycled paper.
3) Bottle caps are also recyclable (in addition to the bottles!)
4) To-go coffee cups are not recyclable.
5) Plastic bags and film, dry cleaning bags, bread bags & newspaper bags are recyclable.
6) Junk mail doesn't have to be sorted to be recycled.
7) ...In fact, everything goes when it comes to recycling mixed papers including magazines, envelopes with plastic windows, sticky address labels, post cards, glossy paper, overnight envelopes and packaging etc.
8) You cannot recycle food-encrusted frozen food plastic trays as is: wash them out.
9) Cell phones and computers can be safely and securely recycled—just make sure the recycler is third-party certified by R2 or E-stewards (ask them!). It's harmful to the minerals' environment (i.e. contaminates soil) to put most electronics in landfills (and against the law in several states).
10) Bubble wrap can be recycled, but needs to be taken to a drop off center as a separate "plastic."
11) Used paper towels, napkins, etc. are not recyclable but can be composted.
12) Even pizza boxes are recyclable as long as all remnants are removed.
13) Chip bags and candy bar wrappers are not recyclable (yet!).
14) There's no need to remove labels from canned foods or glass jars before recycling.
15) From IWantToBeRecycled.org, other things that can be recycled include aluminum; glass; plastic containers; food items (for composts); steel; hazardous household wastes (It's dangerous to put toxic items like paint, batteries, light bulbs, glue, propane/butane, automotive fluids, garden and pool chemicals, etc. in the landfill. Plus there's usually a stiff fine if you’re caught; check with your local municipality on how and where to dispose.).
IV. WHY (recycle)?
From IWantToBeRecycled.org, the Top Five Reasons to Recycle:
1) Conserves natural resources—Recycling conserves natural resources such as trees, water and minerals—preserving the environment for future generations.
2) Reduces the need for landfills—Recycling reduces the need for landfills and incinerators because when materials are recycled, less waste is sent to disposal facilities.
3) Prevents pollution—Recycling prevents pollution and reduces greenhouse gas emissions caused by the extracting and processing of raw materials.
4) Saves energy—Recycling saves energy by eliminating the need to extract and process raw materials.
5) Creates jobs—Recycling helps create new jobs in the United States for both the recycling industry and manufacturing.
V. HOWand WHERE (to recycle)?
From Woody Raine, Zero Waste Program Development, Austin Resource Recovery,
City of Austin:
A. Inventory local recycling and reuse options. Develop a list of organizations that collect or accept scrap material (particularly metal) and reused goods from businesses and the public. Include businesses that accept used tires, used motor oil, and other automotive products. Ask trash haulers what recycling services they provide. In addition, determine if the county or a farmers’ coop periodically accepts pesticide containers.
B. In the waste management hierarchy, reuse comes before recycling. So, include thrift stores and repair shops on your list of local recycling and reuse opportunities.
C. Determine what businesses and institutions in the area already recycle what they generate. Many retailers, particularly grocers, backhaul bales of cardboard to regional distribution centers. Some post offices recycle their undeliverable bulk business mail and include mail discarded by their patrons. Large employers and institutions, including TxDOT, may have the means to recycle materials that they generate in large quantities, particularly scrap paper or metal. See if they’ll let their employees add materials to what the employer recycles. See if they’ll let neighboring businesses contribute to their recycling stream.
D. Encourage other organizations to follow the example of those that already recycle, particularly the large generators where the economy of scale makes most sense.
E. Of course, it’s better to reduce than recycle. One of the easiest is home composting. If the county AgriLife program manages a Master Gardeners or similar program, encourage them to tap into STAR’s YardWise program.
F. Along those lines, if businesses and residents generate much yard trimmings, that should be a high priority material to target. It’s problematic in landfills. The good thing is that it’s usually kept already separate from trash; it can be collected relatively easily; and turning it into a marketable product is a local business opportunity. Plus, unlike recyclable materials, markets for compost and mulch are local and not subject to swings in the economy.
G. Lastly, residential recycling is the least efficient method of recovering materials, particularly through drop-off. Even so, some communities provide residential recycling services to promote other waste reduction opportunities. If the community does provide residential recycling services, it should go for the gusto to ensure that enough material is recovered to be able to downsize trash collection. Otherwise, the service can be just a token additional expense without much benefit.
From STAR ( courtesy of the Professional Recycles of Pennsylvania:
2) CLASSROOM: Due to the vast array of paper generated in the classroom, a “Do’s and Don’ts” poster should be displayed next to the recycling bin. The poster should clearly indicate what paper is allowable in the recycling bin and what should be discarded as waste. Designate a specific classroom to be in charge of collecting and emptyingthe recycling bins into the outdoor container. This responsibilitycould change during the school year so that every student will share inthe duty. If this is not practical, work with the custodial staff to takecare of collection logistics. Students must constantly be reminded how important recycling is; making classroom recycling projects fun helps absorb learning. A great time to reinforce recycling is Earth Day (April 22) or AmericaRecycles Day (Nov. 15).
2) OFFICE: Each office should have a paper recycling container next to each trash can and copy machine. Containers, boxes or stack trays should be within convenient reach of each desk. These boxes should be clearly marked with the recycling symbol and paper image. While many may not take the time to read labels on containers, most will take notice of prominently displayed images. Once the initial novelty has worn off, a renewed education effort should be aimed directly at faculty and staff. This could consist of periodic reminders or special programs. Take advantage of Earth Day or America Recycles Dayto reinforce the recycling message. Recycling bins for cans and plastic bottles should also be available for office workers. Always make sure recyclables are rinsed and lids are removed before placing them in the bin.
3) LIBRARY: Paper recycling containers with slotted openings should be placed in convenient spots throughout the library,especially next to trash cans or copy machines. Library offices should have stack trays or boxes within reach. It is important to make sure recycling bins are placed throughout the library, not in one location only. Place a poster near these containers to reduce contamination issues.
4) ATHLETIC FACILITIES: Athletic facilities are breeding grounds for recyclable materials. Beverage containers, whether consumed by athletes or spectators, are generated in large quantities in a small amount of time. It is for this reason that containers of all kinds should be recycled at any athletic event or facility. Recycling receptacles must be clearly labeled with words and images of the material that belongs in the container.It might make sense to commingle beverage containers in one receptacle. Additionally, concession stands and other food service facilities should recycle their corrugated cardboard.
5) CAFETERIA: Extend your efforts to the students using the cafeteria. Providewell-labeled containers with specialized lids for beverage containers, particularly near exit doors and next to vending machines. Due to the large amount of corrugated cardboard generated, employees should be asked to flatten and place all materials in a separate, conveniently located bin.
6) OUTDOORS and ON CAMPUS: For best results, recycling containers should be placed right next to trash receptacles. Recycling receptacles must be clearly labeled with both words and pictures of the materials that may be disposed of in them. Consider commingling beverage containers for more convenient disposal and easier collection.
VI. Bottom Line—Without Recycling, Life on Earth Cannot Be Sustained:
Recycling and Sustainability go hand-in-hand.
From The Brutland Commission’s Our Common Future report, courtesy of Boston College:
Sustainability is “defined ‘as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ This definition implies that there are limits to the amount of available resources and the ability of the earth to absorb human activity. Such confines require the restructuring of our consumption habits to ensure a healthy life and earth for future generations.
“Around the globe there are signs that our current way of life is unsustainable: smog, disappearing wildlife habitats, melting ice fields, extreme weather events, flooding, relocation of people, and more. This is the time to adjust our behaviors.”
“Why is sustainability important? Our future depends upon it. Sustainability is important because all the choices we pursue and all the actions that we make today will affect everything in the future. We need to make sound decisions at present in order to avoid limiting the choices of generations to come.For example, if you continue wasting water and polluting the dwindling supply of freshwater that we have today, we leave future generations with no other choice than to desalinate saltwater or treat contaminated water for their consumption and daily use. We can also be assured that, if that happens, all life that depends on clean freshwater will become extinct.
“The same goes with the supply of soil that we currently have. Without proper care, our soils can easily lose quality enough that they will no longer be able to encourage growth and sustain life. If that happens, future civilizations will be void of crop and other natural sources of food. They will then have no other choice but to create man-made sources for nourishment and sustenance.”
Without Sustainability“Extinction Will Prevail. The two examples described above may seem terrible but, in fact, those are not the worst circumstances we can leave the future of mankind with. If clean water and good soil become scarce enough, all life on Earth can become extinct. Keep in mind that this does not just apply to soil and water but all elements of nature that are crucial to sustaining the Earth’s equilibrium.”