Reeducate/Recycle: What is Truly Recyclable?

In an August 21, 2015 Wired Magazine article, “Listen Up America: You Need to Learn How to Recycle. Again.”, author Nick Stockton wrote that though a majority of Americans recycle, the recycling industry is hurting. He explained that pricing for second-hand commodities is down, and that the cost of sorting through too many “non-recyclables” that get thrown into the bin by overenthusiastic people has risen. Certain things are just not recyclable. Just because a product has metal or plastic parts doesn’t mean it is recyclable. Even if a product is made entirely of plastic, it doesn’t mean that that specific plastic is recyclable, or that your local recycling center is accepting it.

The problem is not that people are lazy, but that they are throwing anything and everything into their recycle bins, hoping that maybe the broken parts of their mirror and their food-soiled pizza boxes will magically turn into new products. The article quotes Susan Robinson, director of public affairs for Waste Management: “The single biggest problem material at recycling facilities are plastic bags.” Plastic bags get caught up in the sorting equipment and can slow or completely cease sorting machinery for hours.

So let’s reeducate ourselves. What can we recycle? What items should never be put into our recycle bins?

Aluminum and Steel Products

Aluminum and steel cans, aluminum foil, and aluminum bakeware are all recyclable. According to Waste Management’s website, “Americans only recycle 49% of the aluminum cans they use.” The website also stated that “Recycling steel and tin cans saves 74% of the energy used to produce them.” If we are saving that much energy, we should definitely make an effort to recycle all the cans we use. Energy-saving tip: Make sure to rinse off any food residue from recyclable products before throwing them into the bin. Many recycling centers will not accept products with food residue. Clean products also increase efficiency at the sorting facilities.

Newspaper, Magazines, and Other Paper Products

Newspaper, magazines, catalogs, and magazine-type ads (like grocery inserts) are easily recycled and accepted at most recycling centers. Items that are usually, but not always, accepted are corrugated cardboard, paper, and paperboard. Cereal boxes and non-styrofoam egg cartons are good to recycle. Used pizza boxes and milk cartons are not accepted because of oils and food residue that are not easily removed. Drink boxes lined with wax are also not recyclable.


Know your plastics. Non-recyclable plastic products are one of the biggest problems for recycling centers and sorting facilities. Unless the plastic has a three-arrow recycle symbol on the bottom, it is not recyclable. Additionally, just because the product has a recycle symbol on the bottom doesn’t mean that your local facility accepts it. If your recycling center accepts plastics (not all do), they most likely accept products labeled PETE 1 and HDPE 2. Some centers accept other types of plastics, but always contact your local center for a list of the products they accept.


Glass is another product that is not always automatically accepted at recycling centers, because they need to have specific equipment to process it. If your local center accepts glass, make sure to ask that they specify if they accept colored glass, and if so, which colors.

Mirrors, Pyrex, light bulbs, and ceramics are never recyclable. Broken pieces of these products pose a danger to sorting-facility employees.

The best thing to keep in mind when deciding what to throw into your recycle bin is whether the product in question would be easily processed into a raw material or if it is just a part of another product that would have to be disassembled first (i.e., garden hose, shovel, etc.). Recycle centers are processing raw materials into raw materials to sell. In order to do business efficiently, they need consumers to be educated to save time and reduce the cost of processing.

Ways to Start the School Year Off Eco-Friendly

7327146800_b2e65d6bf3_oSummer is coming to a close. That means it is time to prep for the new school year. which means back to school shopping for supplies, backpacks, lunch pails, clothes, and the list can go on and on. Before you head out to the store to purchase everything, here are some great tips to keep those back-to-school purchases as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible.

  1. Take Inventory

    4588535631_486542047c_oClean out those desk drawers, dressers, and closets and you may find hiding treasures like packs of pencils, notebooks, or clothes you bought on sale that haven’t even been worn yet. Now that you have gone through all that you have, you can make a list of what items are needed. The list will guide you. When you hit the stores, so you won’t buy duplicate items or spur or the moment purchases.

  2. Reuse What You Can

    5093615082_3df15d285f_oLook through what you have to see if any items can be reused. Often there are many items that are still in good condition and can be used for another year. The backpack from last year may be in great shape and just need a quick cleaning to be school-worthy.

  3. Healthy Lunch Options!

    9350757417_4bf3167767_oA bento box makes a great reusable and waste free lunchbox option- no plastic baggies required! Many bento boxes have multiple dividers or containers that allow you to pack a healthy and fresh lunch. If a bento box doesn’t suit your needs, there are many other great reusable containers that allow you to pack delicious and nutritious options.

  4. Reusable Bottles

    6959989243_b5a94e95a5_oRather than packing bottles of water or juice boxes daily, send your child to school with the healthy drink of choice in a reusable bottle. There are many great designs; no need for juice boxes!

    There are many great options when it comes to reusable containers, bbut be sure to check that they are made with recycled material and are BPA-free.

  5. Buy Recycled or Sustainable When Possible

    creative-desk-pens-schoolMake your list so you know the school supplies you need, now it is time to buy. Most retailers now offer many options of recycled and sustainable materials, such as pencils made from certified sustainable-harvest wood or pens, paper and notebooks. made from recycled materials. Every little bit helps eliminate waste!

  6. Eliminate Paper Waste

    apple-desk-working-technologyRather than having many pieces of paper float around ask to be emailed important notices from the school. Every bit helps and this will save many sheets of paper that get lost in the bottom of backpacks. This also allows you to put important dates in your digital calendars rather than keeping stacks of paper around the house.

Here’s to another great school year!

The Problem with the K-Cup

k-cupsIf you work in an office, have a busy schedule and drink coffee everyday… then there is a good chance that you used a share of the 9 billion Keurig K-Cups that were sold last year! And who could blame you? In our fast-paced society, it’s hard to resist the opportunity to have hundreds of beverages available at the touch of a button (and without all the hassle of cleaning out yesterday’s pot of coffee).

A few weeks ago I came across an article on The Atlantic website that confirmed the fear that had slowly begun to creep in as I brewed my coffee every morning: eventually these K-Cups are going to take over! I had already noticed the waste building up in our office, but James Hablin’s article, A Brewing Problem, really opened my eyes to just how big this issue is becoming. If we were to line up all of the K-Cups that were sold in the past year alone, they would circle the earth at least 10.5 times! Not only that, but the K-Cups are made using a type of plastic that is not recyclable in the US…which means that the only home for those 9 billion K-Cups is the landfill.

This knowledge is worsened by the fact that several competitors have successfully designed a recyclable or biodegradable version of the K-Cup…and instead of embracing it, Keurig has trumped the competition by launching a second-generation machine that only works with Keurig-brand cups. Last year, Keurig promised to come up with a fully-recyclable version of its K-Cup by 2020. However, that promise was not enough to stop Egg Studios from producing a theater-quality horror movie about the impending “K-Cup Apocalypse.” While it may be a little far-fetched, this video has certainly gotten people thinking and has lead to the #KillTheKCup movement on Twitter.

By the end of this article, you may find yourself considering giving up coffee entirely (I know I was), but wait — there’s still hope! Somewhere in the course of the past few weeks, a lovely little box (like the one below) showed up in our kitchen. Turns out, there is a way to recycle these things after all! Click here for more information about Keurig’s Grounds to Grow On program.

There may still be room for improvement, but I can honestly say that my Keurig-brewed coffee takes a little sweeter now that I know that the K-Cup can be converted into something useful!


The Story of Stuff


Released in 2007, The Story of Stuff takes a closer look at the linear pattern of our economy. From our constant reaping of the planet’s finite resources to the addition of toxic chemicals to our products and our overwhelming transition to identifying ourselves as consumers, this unsustainable system cannot and will not last forever.

This video illustrates the current flow of our economy and the role that government, corporations, and individual consumers play in the “big picture.” It points out the problems with our current linear model, and the possibility of change to a more cyclical model based on people coming together to make a difference.

To learn more about The Story of Stuff Project or see more videos, visit

Plan A Picnic



Memorial Day Weekend is the perfect occasion to pack a picnic and head outdoors to enjoy the beautiful weather. First you have to decide what dishes to bring. Typical picnic foods can include hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, and cookies, which are not the healthiest choices (though they may be delicious). If you’re looking for better options, here are 10 healthy finger-food ideas for your next picnic outing!


1. Edamame


2. Ants on a Log (celery with peanut butter and raisins)


3. Grilled Vegetables (zucchini, squash, mushrooms, etc.)


4. Pita Chips with Hummus


5. Homemade Trail Mix (dried fruits and nuts)


6. Turkey Sandwiches with low-fat ingredients (whole-grain bread, lettuce, tomato, sprouts, and low-fat cheese)


7. Shrimp and Lemon Skewers


8. Yogurt


9. Fruit Salad


10. Angel Food Cake (low in calories) with fresh fruit and fat-free whipped cream

Now that your basket is packed with delicious foods, it’s time to head out and enjoy the beauty of nature!


Spring is in the Air…

Spring is finally here! After an unusually bizarre winter with the “polar vortex” swirling around the east and the dry skies in the west, we’re all ready to enjoy the pleasures of springtime. The sun is shining, maybe a little rain is still falling, but warm weather is here, hopefully to stay!


Here is a list of 10 things to do, get outside… enjoy the weather and your family and friends.

1. Read outside on a blanket in the sun

2. Go fishing with your buddies

images-13. Do some spring cleaning to fun music

4. Make these beautiful spring centerpieces, using simple glass jars and lemons for a touch of color!

20893414909de221e35e3b2d0ff7b1fa-15. Fly a kite on the beach

6. Plan a “staycation” with these cool ideas

7. Take pictures of wildflowers

5847087633_598af01050_z-18. Make this delicious “dirt cake”:

6309663259aac1a07cbdb3f4d3e9cf879. Walk barefoot on cool grass

10. Make a fairy garden like this one!