Is recycling outdated?

Don't buy plastic containers or aluminum foil when they can be reused over and over again, blogger says.

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Before recycling, Pamela Hawley suggests, first think about reusing the item. Photo: Customers separate recyclables in two streams at Randy's Sanitation and Recycling in Delano, Minn. One is paper, the other is glass, cans, and plastic (shown here).

Recycling is outdated: Its time has passed. I’ve been thinking about this for about the past year, that recycling is outdated. I know that might seem a crazy statement to some.

Yet we really have to encourage ourselves to reuse, and reuse again, and there are so many creative and inspiring ways to do so.

To-Go Containers

I’m often surprised in my office when people get lunches to go, how many containers go in the recycling. I quickly pull them out. Many of these are solid containers which can be used again 100 times. We actually probably never have to buy Tupperware. These containers can be reused for a leftover, half-eaten waffle from our breakfast, to a four-portion meal remaining from a dinner party. Many of them are durable, safe, and strong enough to go in the dishwasher.


I also see the same thing with tinfoil. Sometimes when there’s a catered lunch at the office, large swathes of tinfoil cover the main entrée, or even a side dish. This aluminum foil can be washed down and dried, and reused multiple times. Fifty times, I’ve found.

I’ve stopped buying aluminum foil.


Now this might sound crazy to some, but I am making sure that I am not “throwing out” water. In our kitchen at home, we have a hot pot that heats up our water. If it’s half full in the morning, I often dump it out, and refill the whole container. And yet, I’m throwing away precious water. How many countries across the world – how many millions of children – would die for those two cups of clean water? How many do?

I’ll answer it for you – 2 million people are dying annually due to lack of clean water. Most are children.

So we can drink it. Or we can water our plants. Or we can use it to scrub down the basin, clean the bathtub, scour the shower, or dampen a cloth when we’re wiping down the kitchen table. Let’s not waste something that actually sustains other people’s lives.

As the expression says, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. I think we have to change our mindset completely… don’t throw out the baby… and don’t throw out the bathwater. Both represent life.

Pamela Hawley is the founder and CEO of UniversalGiving, a web-based marketplace that helps people give and volunteer with the top-performing, vetted projects all over the world. This blog post originally appeared on her blog Living and Giving.

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