The 3R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – have evolved over the years to include a new superhero…composting! Even though recycling has been a household thing well before the first Earth Day in 1970, people are still struggling to do it correctly, and are surprised to find out that commercial composting is an option. Not to worry, we’re here to give you the “breakdown,” (composting pun intended), on these sustainability super helpers when it comes to finding resources, understanding labels, and sorting out your trash for recycling and composting.
If you want to live more sustainably, a good place to start is in your trash can. In this post, we’re going to explain how each facility works, along with some best practices to correctly sort your waste so it ends up in the right place.
Recycling, in its purest form, is taking something old or unused and repurposing it. It could mean making a basket out of strips of old newspapers or creating storage containers out of old shoe boxes. But for our purposes here, we’ll focus on the act of taking trash through the process of creating a new consumer product.
To make recycling as effective as possible, it’s important to create a continuous loop of action. It’s not enough to simply recycle items, it’s equally as important to purchase items made from recycled products, or contain recycled packaging. To help get you in the right mindset, here’s a quick overview of the basic steps in the process of recycling and how to create this continuous loop:
Collection and Processing - Whether you’re bringing your recyclables to a drop-off or collection center, or you have curbside pickup available where you live, these items are taken to a sorting facility where each item is separated based on its recycling class and type. Items are then cleaned and prepped to be sold, similar to how other raw materials are processed and sold.
Manufacturing - Once a manufacturer purchases the recycled materials, the manufacturing process takes place. Many items, from newspapers and magazines, to drink containers and storage boxes can be created through the process of recycling, which is pretty amazing.
Buy Recycled - To create a continuous loop of recycling, we take things one step further and make product purchases that are either made from recyclables or use recyclables in their packaging. Since it’s so common to make certain products out of recycled items, you may not even know they’re created from what used to be trash. Paper-based egg containers, soda cans, nails, carpeting, even trash bags – many of our everyday purchases use recycled products and help us create that loop.
The sometimes confusing and often misunderstood piece to recycling is knowing what you can recycle. Your curbside pickup or drop-off center will have clear guidelines to follow, so when in doubt, contact them. One of the largest trouble areas is plastic. Simply put, not all plastic is equal – and some aren’t easily recyclable. Paying attention to what your curbside pickup or drop-off center will accept is very important. For example, as common as they are, many pickup or drop-off centers won’t accept plastic bags provided by supermarkets and department stores. To help you out, here’s a chart that identifies the different types of plastic, which can be matched with just about any disposable plastic item purchased. Just be sure to fully understand which symbols and numbers your curbside pickup or recycling center will accept.
Now that you’re armed with a little knowledge, you may be wondering, “ok, what now?” Well, we’re here to guide you through the next steps. Even the smallest effort will help us all be better citizens of the world. What’s important is that you take some action. And you can start here:
- Find a recycling center – If you don’t have curbside pickup at home or work, find your local center at com.
- Know what’s acceptable – Reach out to your local facility and know what items are acceptable.
- Inform others – Chances are that family and friends may not fully understand the rules, now it’s time to use your knowledge and educate!
- Buy recyclable – Shop for products that have a recyclable packaging logo, those that are either made from recycled products or use recycled products for their packaging.
- Avoid unnecessary plastic – Taking a trip to the grocery or department store? Bring your cloth bags or cardboard boxes and avoid the hard-to-recycle plastic bags.
Recycling is certainly a good practice that’s easy to do and will help the environment, but it’s only one piece of our recommendations here, and it shouldn’t work alone. While recycling has many misunderstandings, there’s an often-overlooked environmental practice that is riddled with confusion. But don’t fear, we’re here to provide some guidance on our second favorite environmental superhero…composting!
Composting is the process of adding organic materials, such as food items and yard waste, to soil – allowing them to decompose – thereby making the soil more fertile. Rather than taking discarded food and the remnants of yardwork and putting them in the trash, the composting process will use the decomposition of those organic items to help grow plants and vegetables. Increased fertilization occurs when the organic material is broken down over time, providing minerals and nutrients to the soil.
For proper composting, you need an equal mix of organic material – browns, greens, and water. The brown would consist of twigs, branches, and leaves. The green would consist of veggies, fruit, and our favorite compostable item, coffee grounds! This organic material with the right balance of water will facilitate the breakdown process and pave the way for richer soil. Composting is a great way to save the landfill from more trash while fertilizing soil without the use of chemicals. Composting can be done at home, but for those without the time, the land space, or who want more flexibility in what items can be composted, commercial composting is a valuable and popular option.
Commercial composting takes the same process, but at a much larger scale. And while most composting regulations limit the types of food used when composting at home, commercial composting will typically have a wider range of food acceptance. One added benefit of commercial composting is your ability to include your Smile Coffee Werks® pods as they’re 100% suitable for commercial composting. For more on how commercial composting works, visit Earth911.com.
To find out what your nearest commercial composter or neighborhood commercial pickup will accept, it’s best to reach out and ask directly, as different facilities will have different guidelines to follow. As a general rule, this is a typical list of dos and don’ts…but to be sure, contact your facility or service.
Composting, along with recycling, is the ultimate one-two punch for helping the environment with minimal effort. All it takes are some modifications to how you treat your trash, and the benefits can be felt worldwide. Here are a few next steps when you’re ready to take action:
- Find your local composting facility and be sure to ask about acceptable items – com.
- Get your neighborhood and local HOA onboard with a commercial composting program.
- Purchase products with minimal packaging and those made from compostable materials.
Tips to Make Recycling and Composting Easier at Home
Here are some additional tips for you to use at home, or at work. Recycling and composting can be easy once some adjustments are made. Sometimes all you need is to take some action:
- Multipart containers for trash, recyclables, and compost for easy separation and storage of refuse.
- Post signage under lids displaying dos and don’ts of recycling and compost materials.
- Get your neighborhood and HOA involved in a curbside pickup program.
- Ask for recycling and composting programs at work.
Keep in mind, our Smile Coffee Werks® product comes in a fully recyclable box and our coffee pods are commercially compostable. Getting a fast, delicious cup of coffee shouldn’t impact the environment negatively. We stand for the environment as well as a good brew, and we hope you take the journey with us!
Feel Good About the Products You Buy and the Trash You Create
We believe good products can still be convenient without burdening the Earth. Using your single-serve coffee brewer you only use the water and energy you need to produce that cup of joe you require. Just make sure the coffee you’re brewing comes in a Smile Coffee Werks® climate neutral and commercially compostable pod, minimally packaged in recyclable paperboard packaging. Please compost and please recycle!