Tips on how to rethink waste by reducing consumption, repairing items, repurposing, and recycling.
In the United States, each person generates 4.51 pounds of waste per day. In 2017, on average we recycled and composted 1.58 pounds of that waste. The United States is the #1 trash-producing country in the world. This means 4% of the world’s people generate 12% of the world’s garbage. What you throw out does matter. Our landfills can only hold so much garbage. It is important to be PROACTIVE and cut back on the amount of trash you produce.
In a 2017 survey of the Greenest States, Georgia ranked 30th in the nation. Georgians tossed about 2.6 million tons of items that could be recycled, with an estimated market value over $300 milion. Recycling is good for the environment and Georgia’s economy.
Recycling is great, but the best ways to reduce waste are to buy less, use items longer, buy used items, and repair, reuse, or repurpose items.
Buying fewer products is the best way to reduce waste. There are several other things you can do.
- Buy products that can be reused, like rechargeable batteries, microfiber cloths for cleaning, and a cloth lunch bag.
- Switch from paper towels and napkins to cloth.
- Make your own home cleaning products.
- Avoid buying products with excessive packaging. Opt for larger or refillable containers.
- Go paperless. Subscribe to receive magazines, newspapers, and bills online.
- For more information, read the UGA publication Rethink Waste: Reduce.
When something breaks and wears out, spend time revitalizing or mending items instead of throwing them out. This reduces both waste and consumption.
- Clothing repairs
- Simple home repairs
- Wood furniture repairs
- For more information on revitalizing and repairing furniture, vist the UGA GreenWay Pinterest pages.
Reuse and Repurpose
Give old items a new use. These may be items you have in your home or used items you purchase at thrift or consignment stores. When purchasing and repurposing items, there are some things to keep in mind to keep you and your household healthy.
- Avoid bringing home bed bugs – Tips from UGA Extension.
- Watch for wood-boring beetles – Tips from UGA Extension.
- Be aware of lead paint and learn how to safely remove it by controlling the dust, working wet and cleaning up thoroughly.
- Be cautious when buying wood pallets to turn into furniture. The wood may have been treated with chemicals. Visit the EPA website to learn more about wood preservatives.
For more information on buying used furniture and repurposing items, visit the UGA GreenWay Pinterest pages.
Recycle when you cannot repair an item or you no longer have a use for it. Below are some suggestions for how to share items with others. If that doesn’t work, compost or recycle them. Your goal should be to reduce your trash to a one gallon bucket or less.
- Donate clothing and items to charitable organizations.
- Pass along books and puzzles.
- Organize a community swap and share with others partial containers of paint and varnish.
- Share magazines with community organizations, libraries, hospitals, or others with waiting rooms.
- Learn where you can recycle items in your community, including electronics and packing materials at Earth911.
- Compost your food and yard waste. Learn more about composting from UGA Extension and the University of Florida.
- eWaste – On average, Americans own about 24 electronic products per household. In the U.S. we throw away around $55 billion in e-waste each year. Many of these products contain copper, silver, palladium, and gold that could be recovered by recycling.
- Make Recycling Easy:
- Centralize recycling bins
- Clearly label bins if you need to separate
- Know your community’s recycling practices
- When in doubt, don’t throw it out!
- Remember to compost
What can be recycled?
|Cardboard||Glass Bottles & Jars w/o lids|
|Catalogs||Aluminum foil & trays|
|Newspapers||Plastic Bottles & Jugs|
|Phone Books||Plastic Food Trays & Cups|
|Junk Mail||Plastic Containers|
|Milk Cartons||Rigid Plastics|
|Juice Boxes||Emptly Aerosol cans w/o lids|
For more on recycling read the UGA publication – Rethink Waste: Recycle.
- An item made from recycled metal uses about half the energy to produce than a product from new material
- Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to power a TV or computer for about three hours
- FIve recycled plastic bottles make enough fiberfill to stuff a ski jacket
- Five pounds of paper conserves enough water to offset water used in a typical shower