When Angela Poe goes grocery shopping, packaging (not price) determines what and how much she buys.
She buys bulk whenever she can and brings her own container. She buys fresh produce that is not packaged.
“I also can tell which glass jars have labels that come off easily and which lids are compatible for standard Mason jars,” Poe said.
As the city of Lexington’s senior program manager over recycling, she lives her job — reduce, reuse and recycle.
“We often think of recycling as the beginning,” Poe said. “But the first step is reduce.”
After the city of Lexington announced Tuesday it was temporarily suspending the recycling of paper products, the edict to reduce first has become even more important, Poe said.
The decision to suspend paper recycling affects nearly all of Central Kentucky.
Lexington’s recycling center serves more than a dozen local counties and cities. The suspension of paper recycling also affects the following cities: Berea, Danville, Frankfort, Georgetown, Harrodsburg, Lawrencebug, Midway, Nicholasville, Paris, Shelbyvillem Simpsonsville and Versailles. Counties affected by the change include: Anderson, Clark, Franklin, Harrison, Jessamine, Madison, Scott, Shelby and Woodford counties.
Paper products that can not be recycled and should go into trash cans include office paper, newspaper, magazines, paper towel rolls and any box food comes in Including cereal, rice and butter boxes.
Shipping boxes are still accepted.
“Brown corrugated boxes such as shipping boxes we still have a buyer for,” Poe said.
Environmental Quality and Public Works Commissioner Nancy Albright said if paper ends up in recycling bins, it will cost the city and taxpayers more.
“It’s more expensive for us to process it and then send it to the landfill,” Albright said. “It’s cheaper to send it to the landfill.”
Items than can still be recycled include: aluminum and steel cans, plastic jugs with screw top lids and glass. The city has had to pay someone to take its glass for years. Albright said Tuesday the city hopes to make a decision within the next few months on whether glass recycling will continue.
The city is still looking for buyers for recycled paper. Some new paper mills are expected to come online sometime in late 2019.
In the meantime, Poe said there are some easy ways to reduce paper waste at home and at the office.
At the office:
Print wisely: Always print double-sided or on both sides of the paper. Make edits to documents electronically rather than printing documents.
Share information electronically: Use online web sites or apps including Flow, Trello and Asana to communicate and manage projects in addition to email.
Meetings: Share documents digitally and ask co-workers to bring computers to access those documents rather than printing copies of presentations
Reduce junk mail: Go to www.catalogchoice.org and opt out of catalogs you don’t want or need. To stop credit card solicitations call 1-888-567-8688 or 888-5OPT-OUT.
Bills: Switch all bills to electronic delivery
Receipts: Ask for receipts to be emailed rather than printed. Nearly all receipts are printed on thermal paper, which can not be recycled.
Repurpose: Use newspapers and magazines as packing material or gift wrap. Excess paper can also be used to take notes.
Coffee: To go coffee cups are not recyclable. Bring a thermos or cup.
Amy Sohner, executive director of Bluegrass Greensource, said at Greensource’s office there are two trays by the printer. One tray has new, white paper for any document sent outside the office. Internally, Greensource re-uses paper that has been printed on one side.
“Always, always print double-sided,” Sohner said.
On May 25, the nonprofit will host its annual GreenFest, which focuses on sustainability. At the conference, there will be a seminar on composting. “Some paper can be composted,” she said. Burning paper is a no-no, Sohner and Poe agreed. There will also be a seminar on “zero waste” grocery shopping a “how to” shop for groceries that have little or no packaging.
Sohner said people who are discouraged about the suspension of paper recycling can also show displeasure with their wallets.
“We need to encourage people to buy items made from recyclable materials,” Sohner said. “That will help create demand in the market.”
For a full list of tips on how to reduce paper waste and other tips about recycling go to: www.lexingtonky.gov/recycleupdates. To find out more about GreenFest on May 25 go to https://bggreensource.org/greenfest/.