America Recycles Day, scheduled for Friday, November 15, 2013 is an opportune time to assess our recycling habits and challenge ourselves to do more.
American Recycles Day was initiated by the National Recycling Coalition in 1997 to educate Americans about recycling and encourage people to recycle and purchase products made with recycled content. In 2010, Keep America Beautiful took over as the national organizer and promoter for America Recycles Day.1, 2
President Bill Clinton issued the first America Recycles Day Presidential Proclamation in 1999. In his proclamation, President Clinton mentioned the federal government’s commitment to recycling and buying products made with recycled content.
Every year since, the sitting president has issued an America Recycles Day Presidential Proclamation. In his 2012 America Recycles Day Presidential Proclamation, President Barack Obama focused on recovery of food waste. I could not find a copy of this year’s proclamation but there is sure to be one.
America Recycles Day Programs and Activities
For 2013, Keep America Beautiful and the Ad Council launched the “I Want To Be Recycled” campaign to raise awareness about recycling and motivate people to recycle and purchase recycled content products.3 Website visitors can click on various icons, say a plastic bottle, and learn what it can be made into if recycled.
Visitors to the America Recycles Day website can search for activities in their area hosted by local Keep America Beautiful groups, schools, cities, businesses, and community organizations. These range from recycling drop-off events to recycling contests to installing public recycling bins.
8 Ideas for Actions We Can Take on America Recycles Day
Whether you are an avid recycler or an occasional one, America Recycles Day offers an opportunity to take action. Below are few ideas. Share your ideas and actions in the comments section.
- Attend a Recycling Event – you’ve probably been meaning to recycle your used batteries, household hazardous waste, or old electronics but like many busy people haven’t gotten around to it. Now is the time. Collect your stuff and drop it off at a recycling event.
- Try a Recycled Content Product – look for and buy a product made with recycled content like a toy, toilet paper, or a jacket. If you have shied away from recycled products in the past, give it a try. You may be pleasantly surprised with the quality and price.
- Make a Few Bucks – collect recyclables, take them to a recycling center, and pocket the money. Or collect recyclables and give them to someone else.
- Advocate for Curbside Recycling – in 2011, there were 9,800 curbside recycling programs nationwide.4 If your neighborhood doesn’t have a curbside recycling program, contact your local representatives and waste management company and ask them to start one. Get your neighbors involved too.
- Be Social – along with recycling, tweet, post, pin, talk with your friends, or share your own recycling video.
- Repurpose and Reuse Stuff – take a look at items you normally toss in the recycle bin and think about whether they could be reused before being recycled. For instance, reuse a cereal box as a gift box, a pint-size yogurt container to store leftovers, and junk mail to stuff a shipping box.
- Give Composting a Whirl – you might not realize food waste and yard trimmings account for a whopping 30.1% of landfill waste (21.3% food waste and 8.8% yard trimmings).4 Composting lawn clippings and leaves is as simple as making a pile in the corner of your yard and occasionally turning it over. With a little more effort you can compost food scraps and make food for your yard or garden. It’s easier and less yucky than you may think.
- Demand Corporate Responsibility – let’s be real, by putting the spotlight on the general public’s recycling efforts, corporate sponsors behind Keep America Beautiful and America Recycles Day deflect focus from themselves and that they are part of the throwaway container and packaging problem. Let’s tell our elected officials we want companies to be accountable for the entire lifecycle of their products, including disposal.
Every Day Should Be America Recycles Day
According to the U.S. EPA, in 1960, Americans generated 88 million tons of trash of which 6.4% was recycled and a negligible amount composted.5 Fast forward 51 years. Of the 250 million tons of trash Americans generated in 2011, we recycled and composted about 87 million tons, a mere 34.7%.4
At this rate, we’ll still be tossing recyclable and compostable items into landfills well into the 22nd century. We can and should do better.
Every day should be America Recycles Day.
- Composting Part 1 – You’re Going to Do What?
- E-Waste Health Hazards and Environmental Impacts
- E-Waste Laws and Regulations
- E-Waste – Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle
- Garbology – Book Review
- Give Old Electronics a Second Life – Help Others & Be Green
- Stop Junk Mail and Get Off Catalog Mailing Lists
- Take Control of Your Money – Pay Bills Online
- What is E-Waste?
- Keep America Beautiful – KAB: A Beautiful History
- America Recycles Day – 2012 Report Highlights
- Keep America Beautiful – “I Want To Be Recycled” Campaign, July 11, 2013
- U.S. EPA – Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2011 (Summary), Published May 2013
- U.S. EPA – Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2011 (Full Report), Published May 2013