Green Strategies for Managing Materials
By following the three R’s, REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE, you are helping to create a more sustainable future for our planet!
REDUCE – Waste prevention (a.k.a. source reduction) is the #1 way to decrease the impact trash has on the environment. Simply stop waste before it happens! Buy in bulk and only what is needed. Cut impulse buying, reduce the use of single-use plastics in your life, and plan ahead when buying perishable foods that will go to waste if not used within a short period of time.
REUSE – Finding creative ways to reuse items for their intended purpose is next on the materials management hierarchy for the best way to reduce the impact trash has on the environment. Glass jars, for example, can be used to store items and for multiple other purposes. Old t-shirts can become rags. Clothes, books, furniture, and toys can be donated for others’ use. Excess food can be donated to nonprofits. When you must buy, try to purchase products made from recycled materials.
RECYCLE – Rethink Recycling. Third on the materials management hierarchy is to properly recycle at home, school, and work. Recycling reduces energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. For example, over the full life cycle of a product, recycling 1 ton of:
- mixed paper is the equivalent of conserving 169 gallons of gasoline and removing the annual emissions from 415 gallons of gasoline;
- mixed plastics is the equivalent of conserving 328 gallons of gasoline and removing the annual emissions from 118 gallons of gasoline;
- mixed metals is the equivalent of conserving 555 gallons of gasoline and removing the annual emissions from 496 gallons of gasoline;
- mixed glass is the equivalent of conserving 20 gallons of gasoline and removing the annual emissions from 33 gallons of gasoline; and
- mixed organics is the equivalent to removing the annual emissions from 42 gallons of gasoline versus the landfilling of the materials. Additionally, composted organic material produces a soil amendment that can be added to soil to enrich it for growing healthy plants.
Recycling programs are always evolving and you should check with your local recycling program to ensure you comply with your local guidelines to recycle what is accepted, and clean. Failure to follow local recycling program guidelines (e.g., no plastic bags or other “tanglers!,” etc.) may result in contaminating the materials in your bin. Contamination costs your local government money and can cause us to miss out on the environmental benefits of recycling.
Please join us at the Maryland Department of Environment as we encourage residents and businesses alike to not only recycle more, but also to recycle correctly. Our Rethink Recycling information social media campaign is underway and culminates with America Recycles Day, November 15, 2019. Please follow, like, and repost our messages on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. #RETHINKRECYCLEMD. Here is an example: “What if Every Family in America Could Recycle?”
Trashing Litter in Maryland
Litter is the improper disposal of unwanted material. In addition to being aesthetically displeasing, litter can be dangerous to wildlife, people, the environment, and expensive to cleanup. Additional information on litter in Maryland can be found on MDE's Trashing Litter in Maryland web page.
America Recycles Day (ARD)
ARD is a national event (November 15th) that promotes recycling, source reduction and buying products made from recycled materials as objectives to a more sustainable society. In celebration of ARD, MDE has created the “Rethink Recycling” sculpture contest and judging ceremony to display students’ creativity and promote recycling. The sculpture contest and judging ceremony is a great opportunity for celebrating efforts of the student artists, for media exposure and for promoting waste prevention to the general public. The sculpture contest challenges students to innovatively and artistically use recycled materials as a solution to waste reduction. If you would like more information about ARD, visit the America Recycles Day's web page.