Over the past few weeks, I have found myself pausing several times as I toss a bottle or an envelope (now with the little window torn off) into the recycling. When doing research for my glass bottle article, it was a little bit disheartening to find out that even though I put recyclable things into the proper container to be recycled… there is a very good chance that those things don’t actually get recycled.
Recycling is something that I have been doing my whole life (growing up in upstate NY we separated everything – paper, plastic, glass – single stream was not a thing). Even my best friend doesn’t recycle anymore at her house, and I can’t help but cringe just a little every time a recyclable goes into the trash. But it’s not getting recycled anyway, so why is just throwing everything away so hard to do?
It’s so hard to do because I do believe in sustainability and that as people we need to be doing more to protect and revitalize our planet. If recycling my bottles isn’t the way to do it, what is?
First I think it comes down to remembering that sustainable actions by each individual can pave the way for broader social change. Our collective actions can have effects that are either devastating (each American’s post-workout bottle of water adds up to 2 million bottles sold every 5 minutes) or healing (if every household were to plant native species in their gardens). When one small change is made by many individuals, or one individual makes many small changes, it begins to add up to a significant, positive improvement.
Reusing and reducing go hand in hand, as one reuses something they are also reducing what could end up in a landfill. This practice is one that has long been a part of the culture at Bin 604. The list of items reused throughout the shop are endless – empty wine bottles are used as water bottles, cardboard boxes and their dividers are continuously used for repacking, wooden wine boxes are used for storage around the shop, in our office and homes. Paper is printed double-sided, and used for small notes, scrap and signage. Just to name a few.
Then there is cork for recycling and reuse! Since Bin 604 started the program in March of this year, we are now just about ready to send in our second shipment of corks! That is 60 pounds of corks (or 4,583 corks!) removed from landfills! We thank all of you who have brought us your natural corks, keep them coming!
Additionally, our paper shopping bags have always been made of 100% recycled materials, are Rainforest Alliance Certified and are sturdier than you would think. We have several devoted customers who either re-use our bags or bring them back to us… again, we thank you! We love getting our bags back to recirculate. But more recently we have been thinking about how we can use less of them. (A sturdy alternative that would not lead to spilled wine on the sidewalk, in the car or in the driveway. The horror!) Enter in – our new 6-bottle tote bags. Compact enough to fit in a smaller bag or purse, they can handle the weight of 1-8 bottles, depending on how you pack them. Since its introduction this spring, we have been able to cut back on our larger bag use. Eventually, we’d like to move entirely to reusable bags to eliminate the need for paper or plastic.
These are just a few of the steps we at Bin 604 are taking to do our part. And there are many more forms of sustainable action. A shift toward a more sustainable lifestyle encompasses many different types of actions, some daily and mundane (using less water, or re-usable tote bags), others rare but with enormous impact (going car-free). It is our individual change that will continue to make sustainable behavior normal.