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America Recycles Day

Renewing commitment to our environment and economy

November 15th is America Recycles Day. Millions of people across the United States will take part in this nationally recognized day of education, dedication, and celebration. More than 80,00 people have signed the pledge to recycle in the year ahead. Top items include cartons, shampoo and conditioner containers, plastics bags, plastic bottles and caps, unwanted print mail, and mobile devices. Set your own goals this Friday for how you’d like to reuse, reduce, and recycle.

Keep America Beautiful created America Recycles Day in 1997, to motivate and empower people across the U.S. in their commitment to show care through recycling. The iconic Keep America Beautiful organization was established in 1953 to end littering and improve recycling. It was founded on a belief that “everyone has a right to live in a clean, green, and beautiful community, and shares a responsibility to contribute to that vision.”

Recycling benefits the environment in so many ways. It reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators, conserves natural resources, and saves energy. Recycling one ton of plastic saves roughly 2,000 pounds of oil. Producing plastic products from recycled plastics reduces energy consumption by 66%. Recycling also boosts employment––an EPA study found that a single year of recycling work in the U.S. accounted for 757,000 jobs.

Recycling plastics is, of course, one of our biggest challenges. A report on tells us: “one-use water bottles flood America’s waterways and landfills at a rate of 60 million per day.” And that 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year. You’ll find other sobering facts on plastic here, such as the EPA discovery that only about 30% of recyclable plastic bottles and jars were actually recycled in 2015. And that each year Americans use about 102 billion plastic bags. Think of the powerful positive impact if we all cut back on plastic bags, and recycled every one that we do use

Yes to recycling––but we need to do it right

The experts ask us to keep a few tips in mind to ensure that our efforts do lead to real recycling. The EPA says here that you can recycle cardboard, metal cans and paper by way of local curbside programs–– but not plastic bags (we’ll tell you in a minute what to do with those.)

Waste Management is North America’s largest residential recycler. In 2018 alone they recycled 10 million tons of aluminum and steel cans, cardboard and paper, and plastic bottles and jugs. (And guess what a lot of those recycled plastic containers get re-made into––park benches and playground equipment, for a start.)

Dawn McCormick, the Director of Communications at Waste Management Inc. of Florida, said in this interview, “Those recycling efforts saved 196 million trees, 46 billion gallons of water, and avoided 29 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.”

But Waste Management also tells us not to recycle plastic bags curbside, because the recycling processing center can’t separate them. They instruct instead to bundle bags loose and dry in a container, and take them to a retailer that can see to their recycling.

Recycling opportunities are everywhere

Don’t throw away your old clothes or other textiles. Donate them, or find clothing recyclers in your area. And when you go to replenish your wardrobe or get winter jackets, be aware that you can purchase really nice clothing made from recycled materials (and you may find serious treasures shopping in secondhand stores.)

And be encouraged by the success of many recycling efforts, such as those for aluminum recycling. Read here to learn about that. The U.S. recycles 105,800 cans every minute, through an industry that pays $1 million annually for recycled cans. Did you know your television could run for three hours on the energy saved by recycling one can?

Want to bring hands-on recycling lessons to your students? Educators, read here for great ideas on how to bring recycling education into elementary and middle school classrooms.

These fun recycling lesson plans will not only teach students about the importance of stewardship and conservation, they also connect to standards in science, math, and reading for grades 1–8. They’re easy to adapt for your classroom. Every lesson plan was created in collaboration with teachers, and they all include free worksheets.”

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