Easy Tips to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

Day 359Redfish Recycling has come out with some easy tips to reduce, reuse and recycle.


  • Buy only what you will use – If you have leftovers of something, especially paint or chemicals, pass it along to someone who can use it instead of throwing it away.
  • Purchase products packaged with less waste – Always choose easily recycled products over wasteful ones, buy larger containers that you can divide yourself rather than single serve that use excess packaging, and reconsider bottled water.
  • Remember your grocery bags – Instead of taking home bundles of plastic bags, consider bringing reusable bags to the store. Most stores also offer paper and plastic bag recycling bins.


  • Choose durable goods over disposable ones – One higher quality razor creates much less waste than multiple disposables.
  • Donate before throwing away – When getting rid of unwanted possessions such as clothing, appliances, or equipment, donate them to an organization that can reuse them. Places like Goodwill and the Salvation Army are happy to repair and redistribute these items.
  • Use washable dishware over paper and plastic – Most restaurants are willing to fill your reusable travel mug instead of a disposable cup.


A lot of what you cannot reduce or reuse can be recycled – in fact, the EPA estimates that 75% of everything we throw away can be recycled!

You can recycle:

  • Paper and Cardboard
  • Newspaper
  • Magazines
  • Cardboard Boxes
  • Glass
  • Mail
  • Books
  • Paperboard Food Boxes and Cartons
  • Plastic (#1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Metal
  • Aluminum Cans
  • Tin Cans

Make 2022 a year of reducing, reusing and recycling!

Tomorrow, ways to recycle your tree.

The Decomposition of Everyday Items

Day 328 – Most of us don’t give any thought about how long it takes for common items to decompose. We tend to toss things into the trash and never think about where it goes from there. Many everyday items are here to stay for a very long time.

Here are 20 items and the length of time it takes for them to decompose.

  1. Plastic bags – It can take up to 1,000 years to decompose.
  2. Cigarette butts – 10 years
  3. Plastic straws – 200 years
  4. Wet wipes – 100 years
  5. Plastic 6 pack holders – 450 years
  6. Tin cans – 50 years
  7. Tires – 2,000 years
  8. Nylon fishing net – 40 years
  9. Plastic bottles – 450 years
  10. Synthetic fibers – 100+ years
  11. Aluminum cans – 80-100 years
  12. Hairspray bottles – 200-500 years
  13. Shoes – 25-40 years
  14. Disposable diapers – 500 years
  15. Lumber – 10-15 years
  16. Batteries – 100 years
  17. Ink Cartridges – 450-1,000 years
  18. Glass – over a million years
  19. Aluminum Foil – never
  20. Styrofoam – never

We all need to think twice before we throw things away. We need to ask ourselves a few questions.

Can this be recycled? Items in bold print can be recycled.

Can this be reused?

Can I avoid using this item in the future?

We are running out of places to put our trash. We need to make changes now.

Tomorrow, dogs to the rescue.

What is downcycling?

Day 301 – So, when an aluminum can is recycled it can be turned into another aluminum can. The same can be said about a glass jar. However, when it comes to many other products, they are usually turned into something with less value and quality. For example plastic can be recycled into fleece or polyester.

We have all heard about plastic milk jugs being turned into park benches. As much as a park bench is a nice thing to have, we need to do better in creating a circular economy. We can’t continue making more park benches, because we can not curb our need for virgin plastics.

Downcycling is mainly a problem due to misinterpretation of the public. Many people assume that plastic, like glass or paper, can be recycled over and over again forever without losing any quality. The truth is that plastic is continually downcycled until it is rendered completely useless for recycling. After that, in most cases, it winds up in a landfill, where it slowly breaks down into microplastics and emits methane.” – GreenMatters

It’s important that we realize that many items, especially those with plastic are not 100% recyclable. Far too often we interpret the term “recycle” as “completely recyclable”. However, that is not the case and we need to start rethinking the materials we purchase.

Now the opposite to downcycling is upcycling. This is the process of giving something more value and quality then it originally had. A great place to see examples of upcycled items is the Facebook group “Upcylceit” Here you will see amazing transformations of items that were on their way to the landfill. However, some have taken the time to make these items even better than before. Check it out and get inspired!

Tomorrow, time to celebrate our feline friends.

Let’s Talk Recyclability?

Day 296 – When it comes to recycling, many have mixed emotions. Some do what they can to recycle as many items as they can. While others don’t trust the system and don’t bother, thinking it’s all a waste of time. If I have learned anything this past year, it’s you at least have to try to make a difference. If we all become complacent about our impact on the environment, whether that’s negative or positive, then the planet has no chance. We all have the capacity to make a difference.

So, on that note, I thought discussing the number of times a particular item can be recycled would be helpful. It will show you that recycling is helpful and something we should all be doing.

Plastic can only be recycled once or twice. The quality of the plastic decreases. Most of the time, plastic is downcycled into something like plastic lumber or synthetic fibers for fabric or insulation. It’s just one more reminder as to why we need to find alternatives to plastic.

Aluminum can be recycled an infinite number of times. It is the most valuable recycled item in the United States. Choosing packaging made from aluminum and getting that packaging to the recycle bin is a real win for the planet.  

Paper can be recycled around five to seven times to produce new paper. Once the fibers become to short, it can be used to make things like egg cartons and newsprint.

Metals, other than aluminum also have an unlimited lifespan, and it is always a good idea to recycle them. Finding someone willing to recycle your metals is usually an easy process. You can even make a little cash.

Glass can be recycled an unlimited number of times. It is also more cost-effective to reuse and recycle glass than to create from scratch.

So, choose your packaging wisely.

Tomorrow, tips on having a green Halloween.

Recycle Across America: Let’s Recycle Right

Day 270 – Recycling has had it challenges throughout the years. As a society, we consume way too much. So much so, we can not keep up on the waste. We don’t have the infrastructure to recycle what we can and we are running out of landfills to bury everything else. Our first goal to improving our situation is to reduce what we are using and throwing away. We need to move to a reusable way of life and ditch the single-use items.

Recycle Across America is a non-profit trying to improve the recycling rates across America, by providing information with best practices to reduce, reuse, refuse and recycle. They offer countless resources to help increase recycling rates and to take the guessing out of the recycling process.

Tips to Reduce Waste and Recycle Right

Recycling Facts

Recycling Toolkit

Resources for businesses, airports, stadiums and much more!

Here are a few simple ways you can recycle right:

  1. NO food, NO liquids, NO straws, NO plastic cups and NO plastic dishware in the recycling bin. 
  2. NEVER put your recyclables in plastic bags and never put any plastic bags in your regular recycling bin or recycling dumpster. Plastic bags and plastic wrap get jammed in recycling processing equipment, which causes recycling to be expensive to process.
  3. NO plastic bags, NO Styrofoam, and NO plastic wraps or wrappers should ever go in the recycling bin.
  4. Unless you have a clean cardboard pizza box, please do not put cheesy, oily pizza boxes in your recycling bin.   The oil, cheese, and sauce on the box can contaminate the cardboard. 
  5. Never put glass drinkware or window glass in your bin.  Recycle glass bottles and jars only.
  6. Put the plastic cap back on the empty plastic bottle or jug before you put it in the recycling bin.
  7.  Recycle all clean paper and all clean and flattened cardboard boxes. If you have time, please remove all tape and all plastic wrap that might be attached to the cardboard. They will accept tape on the cardboard, but the cardboard recycling processors will greatly appreciate it if you remove all plastic materials from the cardboard.
  8. Instead of wish-cycling, make sure every common recyclable such as metal cans, plastic bottles, plastic jugs, clean cardboard, and clean paper gets recycled.  And if you’re not sure about something, let it go to the landfill to avoid contamination.  
  9.  DO NOT THROW COMPOSTABLE PLASTICS IN RECYCLING BINS – compostable plastics such as PLA, are not recyclable and can actually contaminate good recycling. 
  10. Do not throw batteries or electronics in your recycle bin. Take them to the proper facilities to have them recycled properly.

“Without exception, recycling is the top action society can do to simultaneously improve: the environment, the economy, sustainable manufacturing and to prevent waste from going into oceans.”Recycle Across America


Tomorrow, reusable takeout containers in Chicago.

What is Cart Tagging?

Day 268 – Cart tagging involves a group of people that go out and inspect recycle bins. They take note of any contamination that is found in the recycling bins. That information then helps pinpoint where outreach efforts are needed. Those using the cart tagging process have found that having a conversation with residents about what should and should not go into the recycle bins has helped decrease the amount of contaminates and increased the amount of material that can be recycled successfully.

In an article in Resource Recycling, Collin Staub writes about a campaign that started in Centerville, Ohio. The city on Aug. 11 announced the effort, explaining that the project is “mobilizing specially trained staff and volunteers to conduct curbside cart observations. Cart inspectors will flip lids in several neighborhoods and will deploy “oops” tags on contaminated carts. The tags will include “specific feedback designed to reduce contamination,” the city wrote, and those carts will not be emptied for that week.

Cart tagging programs are happening around the country. Those running these programs realize that not every town can employ cart inspectors. Ron Jones, a senior planner for the city of Olympia, Washington, offers another option for getting feedback on cart quality. “The drivers are there every week picking up recycling,” he said. “They know customers, they get to kind of understand who is contaminating really badly versus not so bad, who is doing well.” Olympia, which uses municipal crews for collection, gives drivers a tablet and directs them to note which households set out highly contaminated carts. Drivers can identify the type of contamination through the system as well. Afterward, the city’s recycling department downloads the data and uses it to tailor outreach materials.

In Regina, Saskatchewan they are using a new automated technology to help decrease decontamination. The technology uses a camera installed on the recycling collection truck. The camera takes an image of the cart contents as they are emptied, and a software program visually identifies contaminants. An “oops” mailer is delivered to households with high contamination levels, indicating the contaminants and providing tips for proper recycling.

Even though these programs have had overall success, they have faced some residents that don’t comply or become unpleasant when explaining what needs to be done to have a successful program. It is unfortunate that something as simple as making sure you are placing recyclable items in your recycle cart has to create friction. Many of the programs will take away the recycle cart after a number of violations. In order to get it back a fee needs to be paid. Those cities currently landfill those recyclables while trying to educate residents about how to properly recycle.

It will take a group effort to make sure recyclable items are recycled. Residents, waste management companies and city government need to work together for a common goal, a healthier planet.

Tomorrow, protecting rivers.

Do You Recycle? Challenge

Day 244 – A new program just started in Atlanta, Georgia, to try to encourage more people to recycle.

“Atlanta’s Do You Recycle? Challenge is engaging 100 multifamily buildings citywide to provide recycling training and education to residents over the next 12 months, culminating in a public recognition event for the properties with the highest achievements in improving recycling participation and reducing the amount trash or nonrecyclables in the recycling.”recyclingpartnership.org

So why is Atlanta offering this challenge?

In the US, every year 22 million tons of household recyclables go to landfills, become litter, and pollute our waters. While packaging plays a key role in keeping products safe and transportable, it too often is discarded when it could be used again. Recycling protects resources from depletion, allows communities to manage the amount of trash they have to handle, and protects the environment by saving water and greenhouse gases.” – recyclingpartnership.org

The program is planned to run three years and hopes to include more multifamily homes. They hope their efforts will keep more recyclables out of landfills.

Live Thrive, an Atlanta-based recycling non-profit organization, will serve as the community hub for the Do You Recycle? Challenge. Last year Live Thrive’s Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHaRM) diverted 1370 tons of items from the landfill.

Participating properties will receive:

– Technical assistance
– Education materials
– Signage
– Public recognition
– An improved sustainability amenity

If Atlanta can prove that such a program can be successful in diverting recyclable material from to the landfill, then there is no reason why it should not be pushed out to cities around the country. Would you be ready for the challenge?

Tomorrow, an option to recycle your old CDs, DVDs and VHS tapes.

Declutter and Get Organized

Day 116 – Today is Get Organized Day! My senior year of high school, I was given the title, “Most Organized”. It wasn’t the most exciting title, but it wasn’t the worst either. I have carried that organizational skill into my adulthood. However, there are times when things fall of the rails and I find myself with a lot of stuff, everywhere.

Women’s Day shared a list of over 100 ways to get organized. Here are 10 tips from the list. I have added an eco-friendly spin on most of them.

  1. Sort your fridge like a grocery store – By organizing your refrigerator you can cut back on food waste.
  2. Pick your favorite cleaning products – No need to have 100 products and all those single-use plastic bottles and make sure those products are environmentally friendly.
  3. Put everything in its place – If there’s no place for it, then it needs to be rehomed.
  4. Get rid of things you never wear – This tip mentions throwing away your stained or ripped clothing. A better option would be to mend or donate to a textile recycler.
  5. Cut down on paper towel use – Start using old rags and t-shirts to help with the dirty work.
  6. Borrow special-use kitchen appliances – Not only will it save you space, but it will be one less thing you have to get rid of when you realize you never use it.
  7. Get rid of makeup you don’t use – Pare down your cosmetics so that it all fits in one portable bag. Recycle the cosmetics you don’t want anymore.
  8. Stay on top of your bills – Make a list of all the bills that need to be paid and check them off as they get paid. Make sure to go paperless.
  9. Get rid of expired beauty products, medicine, and coupons twice a year – When you adjust your clocks each spring and fall, also weed out expired medicine, sunscreen and smoke detector batteries, to name a few.
  10. When you declutter, before tossing anything in the trash, find out if it can be donated or recycled.

Getting things organized can make you feel better. However, throwing all those unwanted items in the trash can really bring down the mood. So, do your research! Here’s a Recycling and Donation Resource to get you started.

Another great option is to hire a professional organizer. He or she will help you get your life in order and can assist you in accomplishing it in an eco-friendly way. For anyone living in the Chicagoland area, Kelly Brask, Certified Professional Organizer, can help bring order to your home and office. Consider hiring Kelly for your next big decluttering task.

Tomorrow, growing a healthy lawn without pesticides.

First Recycle Popup is in the Books

Day 108 – Yesterday, the Northcenter Neighborhood Association hosted their first Recycle Popup. The set up started at 8am. With the tent up, tables out, bins marked and smiling faces under masks, we were ready to welcome our neighbors by 9am.

The first hour was slow. However, things picked up between 10-11am. Everyone was so happy to be parting with items that they had been saving for months (some even years). They were waiting for someone to rescue these items before they ended up in the trash. It felt good to be part of the solution.

Our helpers were kept busy, sorting all the items and making sure they were placed in the correct bins. I would like to say we were somewhat organized.

The last hour was very busy and we ended the morning with a bang! The next step was to figure out what to do with everything!

We were able to ship three boxes to TerraCycle. Those included, one box of dental and personal hygiene products (toothbrushes, mouthwash bottles and caps, soap packaging, dental floss containers, toothpaste tubes and caps, deodorant containers and caps) and two boxes of plastic food containers.

The amount of batteries we collected was absolutely crazy. It was easily over 100 pounds (if not more). With government agencies like the EPA saying that batteries can be placed in the trash, no one is recycling batteries anymore without a fee. I will be looking high and low for various places to send the batteries. I can’t imagine collecting that amount of batteries every month. Hopefully, people will consider using rechargeable batteries. Not only are they reusable, but they are easily recyclable (without a fee).

We collected ink cartridges, contact lenses and packaging, beauty products, eyeglasses, keys, phone cases, plastic cards, razors (and packaging), crayons, BRITA water filters (and pitchers), and lots and lots of CDs, DVDs and VHS tapes. My daughter and I were very excited about the plastic bread tags!

My car was packed to the brim and emptied into my basement. The next phase is getting all these items to their appropriate destination. I’m giving myself two weeks to get it done, so that I’m ready to go for the next popup on May 15th. I’ll be sure to give another update to fill you in on where everything ended up.

A big thanks to everyone involved with making our inaugural Recycle Popup a success. I am looking forward to improving this event and making it something everyone gets excited about.

Be sure to stay up to date with all the items the Recycle Popup excepts. Click HERE for the list.

Tomorrow, celebrating our National Parks.

Recycling Pop-up Coming Soon!

Day 95 – I’m so excited to be part of the Northcenter Neighborhood Association‘s first Recycling Pop-up! The event will take place on Saturday, April 17th from 9am-12pm, at the Northcenter Town Square (a block north of the Starbucks at the Damen/Lincoln/Irving intersection). We are not able to take all those hard to recycle items, so please check the list below to see which items we will be accepting.

You don’t need to live in the neighborhood or be a member to drop things off. (Though we’d love you to help us keep this going by becoming a member or donating). We hope to expand our list every month, enabling you to recycle more and send less to the landfill.

We will collecting on the following dates,

  • April 17 (9am-12pm)
  • May 15 (9am-12pm)
  • June 19 (9am-12pm)
  • July 17 (9am-12pm)
  • August 21 (9am-12pm)
  • September 18 (9am-12pm)
  • October 16 (9am-12pm)

Hopefully, the weather cooperates and we can collect in November & possibly December.

The items that will be accepted:

  • Baby food packaging: Flexible or rigid plastic packaging; shrink labels; plastic containers; plastic lids; flexible plastic pouches; small and large hook Gerber baby clothing hangers
  • Batteries (alkaline only)
  • Beauty products: All skin care, hair care and cosmetic packaging, including specific lines (Rodan & Fields and Arbonne)
  • Contact lenses and packaging
  • Dental/personal hygiene products: toothbrushes, mouthwash bottles and caps, soap packaging, dental floss containers, toothpaste tubes and caps, deodorant containers and caps (Note: Packages should be empty; they do not need to be washed out.)
  • Food storage containers (glass and plastic)
  • Glue sticks
  • Inkjet cartridges (Note: no toner cartridges)
  • Keys
  • Phone cases
  • Plastic cards: IDs, licenses, credit cards, business cards, gift cards, key cards. (Note: Please cut up all cards containing sensitive information before dropping off.)
  • Popsockets: Popsocket products and packaging
  • Razors: All brands of blades and razors; rigid plastic packaging; flexible plastic bag packaging (Note: no electric razors)
  • Swiffer products: dry refills, wet refills, XL refills, WetJets refills, duster refills
  • Toys (Please click on the manufacturer names below for lists of accepted brands)
  • Hasbro toys and games
  • LeapFrog
  • Spin Master (Etch-a-sketch, Kinetic sand and more)
  • VTech
  • Watercolor dispensers and paint sets
  • Water filter products: BRITA ONLY. Filters, pitchers, dispensers, bottles, faucet systems and packaging
  • Writing instruments (empty) and flexible packaging

We will also be collecting charitable items:

Be sure to check out the Northcenter Neighborhood Association’s website for the most up-to-date information regarding the pop-up event.

Feel free to send any questions my way about the event. I will be happy to answer them! (smgaietto@gmail.com)

If you would like to find out more about how this event was created and how you can bring this to your neighborhood, do not hesitate to ask. It is very doable and I have no doubt it will be very successful in diverting large amounts of waste from going to the landfill.

Hope to see some familiar faces on April 17th!

Tomorrow, a circular economy is the solution to our recycling problems.