Have you ever heard of the “3 Rs”? Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. It’s a mantra for many people trying to tackle their waste.

Reduce refers to minimizing the waste being generated through day to day activities.  This is part of what Tare Market is all about; helping people to reduce unnecessary plastic by offering package-free or lower-waste alternatives.

Reuse stands for making the most of products and resources, so that their potential doesn’t go to waste.  This could mean reusing something over and over again, finding a new purpose for something, or giving it to someone else who can still make use of it.

Reducing and reusing are the best ways to ensure less waste.  However, in reality it’s inevitable that we all eventually end up with some kind of material to dispose of. This is where the final R for recycling fits in.  When it comes time to dispose of things, we have two options.  

The first is a linear option where we discard things as trash and send them to landfill or incineration.  This is the end of the line for these products: they can’t be reused and so we have to extract more resources to constantly replace them.

Recycling, on the other hand, is a circular option: we send away products that can be processed and turned into something new, avoiding the need to entirely replace all of those materials from scratch.  This is a much better option than landfill, but it’s important to know a few things about recycling:

  • “Wishcycling” is a real problem. This is when someone puts anything and everything in the recycling bin in the hope that it will be recycled.  This can cause huge problems for recycling centers as they have to spend precious money and time separating trash from the items that can actually be recycled - you can read more about whishcycling here.
  • Recycling isn't a silver bullet to save us from our own waste - recycling has a large carbon footprint as products have to be transported from different locations and facilities require energy to operate. 
  • Some things can only be “downcycled”. This means that they lose a bit of integrity each time they’re recycled and are eventually thrown away. Plastics, for example, can only be recycled a handful of times before they are trash. So sometimes you put an item into your recycling bin, but it actually becomes trash because it has already been downcycled to the point that nothing new can be made out of that material.

Despite these issues, recycling is STILL the best way to deal with materials that can actually be repurposed into new things.  If you’re wondering how you can up your recycling game, let's delve into some local resources.

For starters, check out the excellent Minneapolis and Saint Paul guides on exactly what you can recycle in each city.  

Beyond regular recycling services, here are some extra options in the Twin Cities.

At Tare Market we have several Terracycle boxes that accept different types of recycling.  Terracycle is a company that aims to eliminate waste entirely and specializes in recycling hard-to-process materials that generally aren’t accepted at municipal recycling centers.  The type of collection boxes we offer differ depending on what we have available, but if you’re curious just give us a call at our Nokomis location (612-200-9274) or Northeast location (612-353-4236) to find out what you can recycle right now. 

Got a dusty old laptop sitting around that doesn’t run anymore?  Electronics are often difficult to recycle given the variety of different materials involved and the difficulty of separating these out.  Luckily in the Twin Cities we have access to businesses like Tech Dump and PCs for People that will recycle items like laptops, tablets, hard drives and cellphones, for free!  They can also accept bigger electronics like TVs for a small fee.

Did you know that you can recycle plastic bags and film?  This shouldn’t go in your home recycling cart, but you can bundle together bags and drop them off at plenty of collection sites around the Twin Cities including Cub, Lowe’s, Lunds & Byerlys, Kohl’s, Target and Walmart.  Make sure the bags/film are clean and dry first!  You can include plastic of the kind that stretches when you pull on it, but you can’t recycle the type of non-stretchy bags used for salad, frozen food, candy, snacks or chips.  For guidance, check out the Plastic Film Recycling website. About 80% of the plastic bags and film in MN are collected by just one company that repurposes this material to make decking and yard furniture. 

You can even recycle contact lenses at many local optometrists throughout the Twin Cities, be sure to ask next time you’re in for a checkup!  There’s also a map of participating sites - who knew!

One of my favorite ideas for recycling is to look for small businesses that can reuse materials you have sitting around at home.  A perfect example is Roseline’s Candles, who can take old glass containers off your hands and fill them with beautiful candles.  Contact Roseline through her website or via Instagram @roselinescandles to organize!  Similarly, if you know other small businesses, consider asking if they could do with old mailing pouches or packing materials you might have at home before tossing them in the trash.

Another hot tip just in time for summer: we also collect used safety razor blades to be recycled through Albatross’ blade take-back program! So if you have made the swap to a zero waste razor, we will happily take your used razors and send them off for recycling. 

As always, hopefully this has given you some useful tips and inspiration to ramp up your recycling game.  See below for bonus links to additional reading.

For a deeper dive into recycling issues in the Twin Cities, check out this Mpls.St.Paul Magazine article on wish cycling.  

Head to Eureka Recycling’s Learn and Take Action page for extra tips on what you can do.

For more information on how to recycle hard-to-recycle items, take a look at Hennepin County’s Green Disposal Guide.

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