REFUSE — straws and single use plastics.
REDUCE – your consumption. Do I really need this item?
REUSE – reusable coffee mug and water bottles, reusable shopping bags.
REPAIR – remember when we repaired things rather than buying new?
REPURPOSE – many items can have a new life and a new purpose.
RECYCLE –This really is the last option if you cannot do any of the above.
About 4.5 pounds. That’s how much trash the average American generates every day. And it adds up quickly. Every year, Americans produce 254 million tons of trash, more than any other nation in the world.
There is no away! When you throw something away, what do you think happens to it? It has to go somewhere. In Hampton Roads most of our household trash goes to the incinerator plant in Portsmouth that burns it to produce energy. This is a better alternative than an land fill, but this process still produces air pollution both from the transport and the incineration and many resources were used and pollution created to make these products, many of which are used once and thrown away.
We can do better. Try incorporating some of these habits into your daily life and you will see your waste reduced:
Break free from plastics especially things that are used once. There are alternatives to bottled water and drinks, plastic straws, plastic bags, and other products packaged in plastic.
- Refuse the straw or bring your own
- Bring your own shopping bags
- Avoid drinks in plastic bottles
- Bring your own reusable water bottle
- Look for alternatives for laundry and dish detergent in plastic bottles, shampoo and other personal care products in plastic packaging. Or buy them in large containers and recant them in reusable containers.
- Have a supply of reusable towels and napkins handy instead of paper products.
- Get rid of plastic wrap, plastic bags and aluminum foil. Opt instead for reusable containers and bee’s wax wraps.
Buy well-made products and borrow the items you rarely use. When you buy well-made clothing, household products, and electronic, you will replace them much less often. Even better, when possible buy used goods or borrow items that you use infrequently.
- Buy good quality products that will last longer.
- Shop at consignment shops, garage sales, flea markets and secondhand e-commerce sites first
- Borrow and loan items that you use infrequently. Do you really need to own a power washer or that specialized tool you used once.
- Declutter, donate your unused items, and give them a new life.
Reduce Food Waste. As much as 1/3 of all the food that’s produced is never consumed – it is wasted. This wastes valuable water and other resources as well as our own money. There are things you can do to reduce your food waste.
- Plan meals ahead and shop with a list.
- Shop more often and buy only what you know you can use.
- Use more of the food that you buy – carrot tops, broccoli stems, bread crust and more.
- Shop locally at your neighborhood farmers market.
- Use leftovers.
- Store food properly.
- Think about composting – it may be easier than you think. There are many new products on the market that will work for any size home or apartment.
The Truth About Recycling
Recycling may be an option, but it really should be thought of as the last option. Recycling programs have all suffered the last few years from the loss of major markets for the products. If the company that collects, sorts, and bundles the recyclable materials does not have a place to sell those materials, they material will go to the incinerator and if the situation persists, the company will have to stop collecting those items.
Just because an item has a recycling symbol on it, does not mean that it can be recycled.
Currently, in Hampton Roads, you can recycle:
- Glass and plastic bottles with a neck
- Clean and dry paper (office paper, newspaper, phone books, junk mail, magazines)
- Clean and dry cardboard – flattened
- Metal (aluminum, steel and tin) food and beverage cans and clean aluminum foil
- Cartons, including food and beverage cartons (juice, milk, soy milk, soup, broth, etc.)
And that is it! Nothing else can be recycled.
If you put your recyclables in a plastic bag, they will be discarded and never, ever, ever put plastic bags in the curb side recycling bin. If your bin is contaminated with items that are not recyclable or the contents are wet, the entire contents of the bin may be discarded.
If you live in Virginia Beach and do not have curb side recycling, you can take your recyclable items to the Virginia Beach Resource Recovery Center on Jake Sears Road. It is past Regent University off of Centerville Turnpike in the southern part of the city.
It is easy to see why avoiding these products may be a lot better and easier than trying to recycle them correctly.
Another good thing to know is that glass and metal can be recycled almost indefinitely, but plastic items are down-cycled and that generally is only possible once.
For more information about the Virginia waste and recycling programs, go to the City of Virginia Beach website, https://www.vbgov.com/government/departments/public-works/pw-waste-management/Pages/curbside-services.aspx
Trex recycling is a private company that collects many other forms of plastic and turns it into decking and outdoor furniture. Trex collection bins can be found at some grocery stores and in some of our schools. If you are looking for a convenient Trex recycling bin, go to their website for a list of locations:
TREX will accept the following items:
grocery bags, bread bags, case overwrap, dry cleaning bags, newspaper sleeves, ice bags, wood pellet bags, ziplock & other re-sealable bags, produce bags, bubble wrap, salt bags, and cereal bags
All materials must be clean, dry and free of food residue.