Give Your Garbage Another Life!

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The average American produces 4.4 pounds of trash in a single day, and yet Americans recycle only 35 percent of this country’s waste.

EarthShare member Keep America Beautiful (KAB) is working to improve those statistics by encouraging people to “give their garbage another life” on America Recycles Day (ARD). This year, ARD takes place on Friday, Nov. 15, with additional activities taking place throughout November.

We’ve asked Brenda Pulley, senior vice president of recycling at Keep America Beautiful, to tell us more about ARD and how you can make a difference in your community.

How do people celebrate America Recycles Day? How do you support their efforts?

America Recycles Day began in 1997 and has evolved from a few key organizations celebrating recycling to a nationally-recognized holiday. Last year, more than 2 million individuals celebrated ARD by engaging in a wide array of educational and collection events.

Event organizers conduct employee engagement initiatives at work, educational assemblies or recycling games at school, community-wide collection drives, and awareness-raising events such as recycled art and fashion shows. Keep America Beautiful supports these efforts by providing organizers with the tools they need to execute their events, from educational materials to promotional posters.

Why is recycling so important?

Recycling is a tangible way that individuals can make a positive impact on their communities, both environmentally and economically. By giving our “garbage” another life through recycling, we are feeding material back into the economy by helping it become something renewed and valuable.

How has the event grown/changed over the years?

Since KAB began managing the program in 2009, we have focused our efforts on building online tools and resources for event organizers. Today, thanks to our national network of KAB affiliates, state recycling organizations, and other recycling partners, ARD has become a valuable tool to deliver educational impact at the community level.

How have Americans' attitudes toward recycling changed over the years?

As people become more aware of global issues like natural resource depletion, they start to think more about the value of material that they may have previously put into the waste stream.

KAB and the Ad Council recently launched a national public service advertising (PSA) campaign called “I Want To Be Recycled.” We demonstrate how recycling fits into this growing social consciousness. Every time a product is recycled, the need for raw material from natural resources is reduced.

What are some of the barriers to recycling and how can we overcome them?

Research shows that convenience and confusion about what can (and cannot) be recycled are two of the main barriers to recycling. To address these challenges, KAB provides grants for public space recycling bins and education about the benefits of recycling. We educate schoolchildren in the classroom and help volunteers engage friends, neighbors and colleagues in the many ARD events throughout the country.

Behavior change research also shows that a public commitment makes individuals more likely to change their behavior; last year, 95,000 individuals committed to recycle more through our “I Recycle” pledge. People on Facebook and Twitter can also help promote ARD by joining ARD’s Thunderclap, a virtual flashmob of support on Nov. 15.

People are fascinated by what their materials can become when they recycle. That information informed our “I Want to Be Recycled” campaign, which is all about “giving your garbage another life.” The PSAs feature the voices of recyclables that want to be recycled so they can become something new and valuable.
 

  • Recycled steel cans can become a bicycle
  • Recycled plastic milk bottles can become an outdoor bench
  • Recycled plastic water bottles can become a pair of blue jeans
  • Cereal boxes can become a board game
  • Recycled aluminum cans can become new aluminum cans

  Bench

If you had to pick one piece of advice for people wanting to start a program at their organization, what would you say?

While America Recycles Day can serve as a launching pad for personal or collective involvement, you can join hundreds of other organizations in pledging to increase recycling in the workplace through KAB’s Recycling at Work program.

Recycling at Work is a voluntary national effort to increase recycling in the workplace. Recycling at Work offers you a 10-step action plan, discounts on recycling bins and other valuable tools to start and expand your workplace recycling program. We encourage all EarthShare members and partners to pledge today!

 

Keep America Beautiful is the nation’s leading nonprofit that builds and sustains vibrant communities. With a network of more than 1,200 affiliate and participating organizations including state recycling organizations, Keep America Beautiful offers solutions that create clean, beautiful public places, reduce waste and increase recycling, generate positive impact on local economies and inspire generations of environmental stewards. For more information, visit kab.org or follow @kabtweet on Twitter.

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