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5 Ways You Can Participate in America Recycles Day

A group of people wearing recycling shirts getting ready to for a clean up day

America Recycles Day is a day to reflect on your recycling habits and find ways to increase your participation in the continuous movement for positive environmental change. Humanity is constantly innovating and changing, so we as recyclers should be doing the same.

This national day of recycling is led by Keep America Beautiful, an organization that makes it their mission for a “country in which every community is a clean, green, and beautiful place to live.” You may think of them as the organization that focuses on litter, and that is true, but as they have grown, their impact has broadened. The future of their organization focuses on aligning with the environmental aspects of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

As the growth of disposable packaging for products has grown, the issues surrounding litter and recycling have grown. America Recycles Day is a perfect opportunity to look deeply at our impact to our environment and find new ways to lessen the negative impacts and increase the positive ones.

1. Check What Goes Where

Different color waste containers in a row

Recycling contamination has become a huge problem in the past few years since the rules of recycling have changed. Prior to 2018 China would purchase about 40% of the United States’ recycling which often had an average contamination rate of about 25%.

In 2018, China changed their receipt of recyclable materials to only accept a 0.5% contamination rate. This is why you have seen an increase in recycling information and awareness campaigns.

Now that the system has changed and recycling facilities must sort out contamination, the cost to handle such a large change has put a strain on recycling facilities across the country. Many facilities have shut down or are in danger of closing because the extra cost it takes to eliminate items that don’t belong costs municipalities millions of dollars.

The solution is simple, residents need to recycle correctly. This means not recycling items that they hope can be recycled or adding items to their bin that are not accepted in their area. Although good intentioned, wish-cycling is counter-productive.

The best way you can help for America Recycles Day is to stay informed about what is accepted in your recycling program. Every program is a little different, so instead of assuming, you should explore what your program accepts.

Phone showing how to use Recycle Coach to search where items go for disposal

If your area is part of our program, you can look up any material in the What Goes Where search tool when you download the Recycle Coach mobile app to know how to properly dispose of any given material. This will significantly help your recycling program.

2. Make Eco-conscious Purchases

various eco-friendly items for sale

As the rise in awareness about the problems with plastic packaging and other disposable items increases, more products are coming on the market that have an eco-friendlier alternative than their formerly disposable options. Once more people move to buying sustainable packaging and products, more companies will move to providing sustainable options.

Seek out products that are made from recycled materials. Often the reason certain materials aren’t accepted in a recycling program, is because there is no market for that recycled material. This means that the recycling facility has no one who wants to buy the material once it’s sorted.

If we start making companies more aware that we want recycled products, more companies will start making products with recycled materials, which means eventually more materials will be accepted for recycling. Your buying power is just that—power. Use it to create a positive change for our environment starting now for America Recycles Day.

3. Avoid Landfills

Jarritos bottles used as planters for cacti

Our world is so used to the idea of disposable and single use, but there are so many ways to give your waste a second life.

  • Reusing: There are innumerable ways to reuse items that might normally be thrown away. Single use plastic cutlery can be hand-washed and used again. Ziploc baggies can be used over and over if they are wiped down. Use containers such as spreadable butter tubs as Tupperware for leftovers.
  • Repairing: Sometimes when an item breaks, it’s easier to get a new one than repair it, but is that really the best option? No, not for the environment. Go ahead and get out the glue gun and duct tape and keep those items in use for as long as possible.
  • Donating: If you really don’t need something anymore, there is surely someone else who does. If you have items that can’t be dropped at a donation center, check with your community. There are apps like Nextdoor and community groups on Facebook that you can post unwanted items to see if someone else wants them.  
  • Upcycling: There are tons of crafts you can do by using unwanted items to create beautiful décor around your house. There are even ways to upcycle your old clothes. The sky is the limit when it comes to upcycling.  

4. Share Your Story

Man holding a recycling loop sign and pointing at the reader

A simple way to participate in America Recycles Day is to tell a family member or a friend. If you’ve learned a new way to stop recycling contamination, or a new product that can reduce your waste, or a new way to upcycle something that normally goes into a landfill, share that knowledge!

The more people who know about the problem, the more people will want to solve it. Awareness about contamination will cause people to make a change in their recycling habits and that will ensure the recycling industry thrives.

So, if you read about a recycling issue, or find an event that can get people involved, or find a way to help, share it with a friend in honor of America Recycles Day. If you share your personal discoveries with someone, or on social media, people will listen, and many will want to do their part. Word of mouth is always the best way to get people involved and motivated to help.

5. Participate in an America Recycles Day Event

People participating in a clean up event for America Recycles Day 2021

Keep America Beautiful maintains an ongoing list of events to let you know where you can participate in ARD events this year.

If you can’t find something near you, you can always organize your own event! Keep America Beautiful has resources to promote your event and then you can register it on their site. Whether it’s a clean-up event, a community tour of a recycling facility, or a recycling educational event, you can help your community recycle better and gain awareness.

Also make sure to follow your local waste and recycling facility on social media—they may have something planned for the biggest day on the recycling calendar as well!

This is Your Chance to Make a Difference

Although we should all be recycling year-round, America Recycles Day is the time to really breathe life into your recycling efforts and to motivate others around you to do the same.

What will you do to help on America Recycles Day? Leave us a comment about it below.

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