This is going to be a “try this at home” post, just in time (aka a little late) or Earth Day 2021. A little bit how to. A few insider tips. And ultimately, a clear conscience and a cleaner environment. This blog does magical things. Wink.
Recycling scrap metal is something that my partner Dan has been doing in the garage for ages. But it was only in the past couple of years that we have moved this inside. And now we’re a metal recycling household.
Some of you are probably scratching your heads right now because you already throw your cans into the blue bag (in Edmonton) and are wondering what I’ve been doing with mine. Well, if you’re already doing this, you’re doing the right thing with your cans, congrats! But what do you do with the can (or bottle, or jar) lids that are also metal? Did you know that they are not accepted for recycling in our blue bags? Thankfully, they are still very recyclable, and are accepted at City Eco Stations for no charge.
While household recycling in the form of blue bags are now very commonplace in our homes, and second nature for many Folks, it wasn’t always that way. I remember when our curbside recycling program started when I was a kid. My parents had to set up a new system in our basement to collect the cat food cans ahead of garbage day. Like with any new habit, it helps to make it easy, convenient, and in your face to ensure success. Here’s our system & set up.
OUR SCRAP METAL SETUP
We keep an old coffee tin in a rack adjacent to our kitchen. This is where most of our in-house metal originates. Things like metal lids to cans, jars, and bottles of food, wire, twist ties, paper clips. Most of the scrap metal in our home is small. Once that coffee tin is full, it goes to the larger bucket Dan keeps in the garage. This is also where he tosses any scrap metal he’s generated in the garage or yard. Or larger pieces from the house. Our trusty old bread machine finally bit the bullet last year - all that quarantine bread we made - so Dan pulled it apart. The plastic shell went into the garbage, and the rest of the parts went to the Eco Station, many bits in the scrap metal bin.
Having that coffee tin within easy reach of where the scrap metal is generated makes it super simple to get into the habit of tossing bits there instead of the garbage. You know the saying “out of sight, out of mind”? I definitely didn’t want that!
Once we’ve got a few buckets worth of scrap metal stored in the garage, we make a trip to the Eco Station up the road. We check in with the attendee at the front, and let them know we have scrap metal. They direct us to the appropriate large bin, and we unload the pieces ourselves. It’s super fun to scatter the metal bits into the large bin, and see how far we can toss the larger items! Keep in mind that this is essentially a work site, so keep the following safety tips in mind:
No kids out of vehicles
Wear appropriate clothing (no open-toed shoes for example)
Be aware of your surroundings, and other people and vehicles moving around you
Be courteous to the other folks and staff using the facility
Metal is a valuable resource, that is easily recycled and re-used. By recycling it, you can save the energy it takes to create new metal. And metal can be recycled over and over again. It makes perfect sense to my brain to recycle and reuse valuable materials, and I am glad our household has come up with an easy way to do that with the metal we bring in.
MEANINGFUL & SPECIFIC ACTIONS
I am a big fan of doing everything I can to reduce my environmental footprint. But ultimately, that will never be enough to turn the tide of the Climate Crisis. Which is why for every individual action I do, I try and think of something bigger and work on that too. This part is way harder, and usually relies on governments and large corporations, of which I am neither. But I am part of a community of folks. And we can make a difference in our community.
I don't have big answers here, and people who are much smarter than me have done a lot of work on this, so I will leave the educating to them. (I've posted some links below.) I do know that we can all do more. And if we have even the most basic knowledge and the tiniest bit of privilege, there is probably something that we could and should be doing. Even if it is the tiniest thing. And somedays this literally feels like the tiniest thing!
FURTHER READING & SOURCES
An introduction to metal recycling - Rick Leblanc (The Balance Small Business)
Table of Solutions (Project Drawdown)
Why Systemic Change Won't Solve Climate Change - Nicholas Poggioli (Medium)
Climate Change Requires Systems Change - Elaine Graham Lee (The Ecologist)
Individual action vs systemic change: lessons from COVID19 for climate change - Chandi Singh (Behavioural & Social Sciences)
Greta is Right: study shows individual lifestyle change boosts systemic climate action - Jeff McMahon (Forbes)