Whether you’re at sea, at a marina/port, or in your home, recycling is an important responsibility. Recycling helps to protect the environment, conserve natural resources, and reduce the production of destructive waste. MarineFuel.com can help you understand how recycling works, as well as illustrate how easy it can be to implement into your routine, regardless of your location or waste material.
Recycling makes it possible to reuse valuable materials like aluminum, steel, and glass through separating and processing each appropriately. The individual carries out some recycling preparations, like flattening milk cartons or removing the paper labels from cans. The recycling facility is responsible for other steps, such as crushing and melting glass containers, compacting soda cans, and shredding newspapers. It is essential for individuals to sort and prepare recyclables properly before taking them to a facility or other collection area. The specific techniques for this vary from one locale to the next; always ask for a recycling instruction sheet, when possible.
Recycling offers numerous societal and environmental benefits. It restrains the depletion of natural resources, prevents land from being used for expanded landfills, decreases the energy consumed to produce new materials, and reduces the amount of commodities that have to be imported from abroad. For example, aluminum requires a great deal of electricity to manufacture, and the bauxite used to create it comes from Australia, Guinea, and other distant countries. Importing it uses more fuel and creates additional pollution. As much as 9/10ths of household waste may actually be recyclable, although few areas offer the facilities to recycle this much.
There are other consequences to not recycling. It takes many, many years (perhaps forever) to “break down” some materials, including most types of plastic. More trash bags are used without recycling, and the bags may break or rip when they contain heavy glass and metal objects. Intensified pollution comes from incinerators and new manufacturing when recycled commodities are not utilized in production. Furthermore, some types of equipment (like smoke alarms, marine batteries, and computer monitors) contain hazardous materials that enter the environment if they are not removed as part of recycling. In many cities and towns, it is illegal to mix such items with household waste.
Although many people and businesses have recycled for decades, there is a lot more to accomplish. As of 2007, the U.S. only recycled about 1/15th of its plastic refuse. Some specialized items like cell phones have even lower recycle rates, despite containing harmful substances. Statistics on other materials are better, although they still leave a lot to be desired. In 2000, about sixty-four percent of steel and just over 1/3rd of aluminum waste were recycled by Americans, but only 23% of glass. Paper recycling rates are fairly high. To improve these numbers, more individuals need to start recycling, manufacturers have to use additional recycled supplies, and city recycling programs must begin accepting a wider range of items.
It also helps to purchase recyclable products to begin with. Try to find foods that come in containers which may be recycled in your area, avoiding those packaged in styrofoam or aluminum foil. Generally, more areas recycle steel and cardboard packages than other materials, and they don’t have the deficiencies which make plastic recycling more difficult to accomplish. A recycling symbol (arrows in the shape of a triangle) is a good sign, although it doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is recyclable in your locality. Packages made from a single material are usually easier and less time-consuming to recycle. For example, it’s easier to crush and recycle a gallon plastic jug of milk or apple juice than a cardboard container with a plastic spout.
The steps to recycle various products depend upon where you live and what you want to recycle. In most cities, trucks collect recyclables from large plastic boxes that residents put along the street each week. Rural areas typically collect them at transfer stations which have separate receptacles for different items, like cardboard, aluminum cans, and plastic bottles. Most take steel and various paper products, but the accepted types of containers vary significantly from one area to the next. Sometimes there are exceptions; a recycling facility might allow aluminum cans but not flexible aluminum products, for example. Glass from windows cannot be recycled in the same way as glass bottles and jars.
There are some recyclable items that must be recycled elsewhere. Often a personal incentive exists for recycling these items. For example, several companies accept used inkjet printer cartridges. Most of them pay a small amount of cash or give other rewards for doing this. One out of five U.S. states recycle soda, juice, and alcoholic beverage containers at separate redemption centers. These establishments pay $0.01-$0.15 per unit, depending upon the state and bottle/can type. Other recyclable items include television sets and used oil; some grocery stores will take back their plastic shopping bags. A number of small products like compact discs and light bulbs can be mailed to a recycling facility or a manufacturer that reuses them. See Earth911.com….
It’s important not to overlook some of the subtle complexities of recycling, or to unknowingly discard items which are actually recyclable. Different materials used in the same product aren’t always easily distinguishable. A plastic yogurt container’s top may be a different number plastic than the container itself – be sure to check the numbers on both parts. Similarly, manufacturers frequently make the “pop tops” on steel or aluminum food cans from a different type of metal than the rest of the can. Some diet drink containers are steel, although they look similar to aluminum soda/juice cans. Recyclables aren’t only one-time-use containers and periodicals; they also include items like plastic waste baskets (commonly #2, sometimes #4 or #5 plastic), cups, and bowls (often #5). Always check for a recycling symbol on solid objects made of a single material.
In a marine setting, recycling can be more effectively achieved by bringing separate boxes or bins to store different types of recyclables. On a boat with several passengers or crew, consider placing a bin for recyclable cans/bottles near the area where they most frequently dine. Install the receptacles in a way that doesn’t pose a safety hazard in rough seas or darkness, and remember that it remains illegal to return beverage cans or bottles for redemption in a state other than where they were purchased. Some marinas and ports will accept recyclables, including certain boat supplies like protective covers and fishing lines/nets. You can even set up an independent recycling program to recycle more materials in your area. See the EPA’s instruction for setting up a Recycling Program…
Reusing things is also a form of recycling. Torn padded envelopes may pad an object being mailed in a box, scratched CDs can serve as drink coasters, old newspapers may be used to soak up water, or an unwanted book might be repurposed as a monitor stand – all without any processing, sorting, or remanufacturing. This often saves money as well. You can buy tape refills (like Scotch cat. 205) instead of the new rolls sold in plastic dispensers, put rechargeable batteries in your flashlight, and bring reusable shopping bags to the store as well. Composting food waste and burning non-recyclable paper (used tissues, thermal paper from marine weather faxes, etc.) offers some benefits of recycling, like curtailing the size of landfills.
Additionally, buying recycled supplies and merchandise is a crucial part of recycling. Without sales of recycled materials, recycling programs cannot continue to function. Whether you are buying magazines, paper towel for a ship’s kitchen, or carpets to put in your home, look for labels like “100% Recycled Paper” or “Post-Consumer Content.” Any item described as “virgin” is not derived from recycled materials. Other available recycled products include napkins (such as Marcal “Small Steps”), shoes, bags, vehicle bumpers, and bubble wrap. Note that some of these items are customarily difficult to recycle or not recyclable themselves.
It is true that some “gray areas” exist in the process of recycling. Different people and companies dispute what type of egg carton or milk container is the most environmentally friendly, and you may wonder whether it is preferable to buy a product made from recycled materials or one that can be recycled in your locality. While these questions do hold significance, it is best not to get too distracted by them or to let them discourage you. If recycling plays a role in your purchasing decisions and you try your best to recycle as much as possible, you are having a positive impact and doing more than at least 35 percent of the U.S. population (based upon the above-mentioned statistics).
Recycling does take some time and effort but is certainly worthwhile for its ecological and economic advantages. It is helpful to regularly spend a small amount of time on recycling, rather than letting it pile up. Crushing and removing the labels from eight steel cans each week is much less cumbersome than doing the same with 100 cans every three months.
Author: Zachary Perry
1. Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia Standard 2005, CD-ROM: Recycling
2. Mother Jones magazine, May/June 2009 issue, “Plastic. Fantastic?”, Jennifer Kahn
3. Environmental Protection Agency
4. Recycle My Cell Phone
5. BoatUS Foundation