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Outdoor gatherings rife with eco-friendly recycling opportunities

This week, 76 percent of Americans broke out the grills, Frisbees and family recipes in celebration of the July Fourth holiday. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, 155 million hot dogs are consumed annually on this day alone, which is enough to stretch from Los Angeles to Washington, DC over five times.  Although Independence Day and summer days are synonymous with lots of food, sun and fun, outdoor gatherings and the season itself are ripe with important recycling opportunities.

Following are some simple ideas from a recent article on Earth 911 to help keep recyclable waste out of landfills, and may even initiate a new hobby along the way:


Have visible recycling containers for your bottles, cans, or food and label each clearly. Get creative! Containers don’t have to detract from party decorations. In fact, there are clever ways to keep it part of your theme or accent the décor in your yard. People are most likely to sort trash and support recycling when they know exactly where it goes. If you expect an unusually high volume of recyclables, make sure to check holiday schedules for trash pick-up with your local hauler, or locate a recycling center nearby as another option for recycling rather than storing long term.


  Shop wisely. Did you know that food and beverage makers are tasked with eliminating 2.5 billion pounds of packaging waste from the supply chain by 2020? That means more environmentally-conscious choices are available while shopping. Look for opportunities to purchase items with minimal or eco-friendly packaging, including buying in bulk or selecting products with recyclable containers and wrapping.
  Avoid disposable party ware when possible. It’s easy to think about plastic utensils, plates and other disposable dishes as the better choice. However, just because they’re plastic doesn’t mean they can or will get properly recycled. Many of these items still end up in the landfill. Instead, use washable tableware and dishes to minimize extra waste. Social media sites offer clever ideas for reusable picnic plates, containers and mugs that add a personal touch or that extra flare to your get-together.
  Start a compost bin. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that more than 34 million tons of food waste is generated annually, but only three percent of that is diverted for composting. Some summer activities can create enough food waste to jump start a simple, do-it-yourself compost bin.  Not only can it help keep waste out of landfills, valuable home-made soil may be ready to fertilize your garden by the end of summer. Plus, it’s a great hands-on project with a learning experience for the whole family.

Take up gardening. Don’t have a garden? Start one! Many fruits and vegetables can be regrown from scraps without the need for seeds. At your next barbecue, take a close look at which food scraps are being tossed. These scraps could be the start of a window sill herb garden, a vegetable garden or the makings of a whole new gardening hobby.

  Donate, donate, donate! Recycling isn’t just about bottles, cans and food waste. A large portion of used home goods, appliances and clothing can be recycled, rather than ending up in a landfill. Summer is a great time to host a garage sale, or to reduce clutter around the home. Do a good deed by finding a thrift store, rescue mission or other donation center such as Goodwill OC or Salvation Army that can give one more life to your unwanted or unused items.
By taking a few simple eco-friendly steps, OC residents can help turn outdoor fun and seasonal holidays into new traditions that help celebrate the environment along with the festivities.