It’s true that we Portlanders are fanatical about recycling.

But the latest news stories have been telling us we’ve haven’t gotten the basics down as well as we would like to think. As a result, more and more is going to the landfill rather than to the recycling plant. With landfills filling up and our off-shore options a little more limited, recycling matters more than ever. The good news is that it only takes a few changes to make a really big difference.

Willamette Week reports that up to 9% of what is currently going into the blue recycle bins is actually plain old garbage, things that the recycling industry calls contaminants. When our recycling was going to China, we enjoyed a pretty large margin of error when it came to contaminants. But when China changed its policy and started rejecting more of this this type of waste, suddenly Portlanders, along with much of the rest of the world, were stuck with a lot of their own waste.

Recycling means buying gently used second hand

Know What Goes in the Bin and What Doesn’t

So how do we clean up our recycling act? We take a little closer look at what really goes into the bin and what doesn’t. The city of Portland provides free printable posters so you and your family and easily recall the basics. The biggest rule Portland wants you to follow when it comes to recycling? When in doubt, throw it out.

City of Portland Recycling Guide
Free printable guide from the City of Portland

One of the most important factors to consider is how to reduce our waste overall.

Reducing waste can be a challenge with America’s rampant consumerism, but it’s definitely possible! Overall, this helps us reduce our carbon footprint. (This article talks all about our carbon footprint.) Not only should we consider reducing how much goes into our trash cans, but also reducing how much goes into the recycle bin.

Here are a few tips to consider as you examine your overall resource use:

Switch to Reusable Items

Bring your own cup to the coffee shop. Carry your own refillable water bottle. Bring your own utensils when you eat out so you don’t have to use plastic.

Buy in Bulk

There are a myriad of items you can buy in bulk so you’re not paying for packaging over and over. Laundry soap, cooking and baking ingredients, and snacks are just a few.

Shop Second Hand

Gently used items can be found everywhere, from clothing to dishes to furniture.

Chemical-Free Self Care

Our personal care products are packed with chemicals. Consider switching to natural products, or even making your own! (Consider the same for home cleaning products as well. Your body will thank you.)

If you’re looking to learn more about living with less waste, or ideally zero waste, sign up for a zero waste home tour. Consider attending Portland’s own Zero Waste Conference.

Recycling means buying gently used second hand

Businesses can recycle too!

If you’re a business owner, Portland has a Sustainability at Work program. Not only does the city provide bins and posters for your business, they can provide a sustainability advisor for you as well. This program not only provides strategy for your specific business, they do on-site assessments of everything from water practices to energy and transportation practices. From there, they provide tools, ongoing support, and sustainability training for your employees. In addition, they keep you informed of green tax incentives, rebates, and available grants. You can even become certified as a green business.