Give Now

Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

The 5 Most Important Items Everyone Should Recycle

On America Recycles Day, Earth Eats says recycle that soda can and water bottle! Those two products top the list of the 5 most important items to recycle.

Soda Can and Glass Bottle

Photo: afsilva (flickr) - kino-eye (flickr)

It takes 95% less energy to make a new can from recycled aluminum, and aluminum can be recycled over and over again. And, glass makes up a large component of household and industrial waste due to its weight and density.

The Three R’s

For 13 years, America Recycles Day on November 15 has been the only nationally recognized day dedicated to the promotion of recycling programs. Participants take a pledge promising to learn about their curbside recycling program, to find an e-waste drop-off for their electronic items, and to spread the word about recycling at their school and work.

But, of the three R’s, is recycling the most important?

Lloyd Alter of Planet Green argues that the issue is much bigger than simply managing waste:

It is the energy made producing things that don’t last, replacing bottles that get recycled instead of refilled, picking up shopping bags that get tossed instead of reused.

And indeed, if the focus was on “Reduce” and “Reuse,” this would lessen all waste sent to landfills and recycling centers. Sara Novak claims that recycling is used as an excuse to avoid addressing one’s initial consumption.

5 Items Everyone Should Recycle

For those who are not living a zero waste life, here is a cheat-sheet of the most important items to recycle.

  • Aluminum cans: According to Annie Bond, a computer or television can run for 3 hours on the energy saved recycling one aluminum can. It takes 95% less energy to make a new can from recycled aluminum, and aluminum can be recycled over and over again. In fact, The National Recycling Coalition says aluminum cans are the single most important item to recycle.
  • PET plastic bottles: These are bottles labeled 1 as their resin identification code. Plastic never really biodegrades, and making new plastic out of recycled sources uses two-thirds less energy than making it from scratch.
  • Newspaper: The EPA says approximately 33 percent of the municipal solid waste stream is made up of paper and paperboard products. With the average office worker using 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year, it’s amazing that percentage is not higher.
  • Corrugated Cardboard: The lower grade paper products, such as corrugated cardboard, are used to make new versions of the same product. Every ton of paper recycled saves more than 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space.
  • Steel Cans: The steel industry in North America has been recycling scrap steel for 150 years. The more recycled steel they receive the better, ensuring that all steel products contain anywhere from 25 percent up to 100 percent recycled content. And this is a better option than mining for virgin ore to manufacture new steel.

Read More:

Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, and for more Earth Eats updates, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter!

Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

View all posts by this author »

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Earth Eats:

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Earth Eats

Search Earth Eats

Earth Eats on Twitter

Earth Eats on Flickr

Harvest Public Media