4. Remember the two other Rs

Recycling was introduced as part of a three-step process: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Over time in our consumption-friendly world, a lot of us forgot about other two Rs.

“Our demand for convenience has cost us,” says Stockdale. “This is the consumer saying, ‘I want quick and easy, so give me this very simplified, dumbed-down system.’ There’s a negative consequence to that. None of us should be surprised by it. This is every person’s problem.”

Residents should think more about what they buy and whether it will eventually end up in a landfill. Knowing that something is made of plastic isn’t a reason to assume it’s recyclable and even “recyclable” items may be only partially recycled.

“Recycling is the gateway drug to the environmental movement,” says Stockdale. Once you start thinking about your garbage, you can consider refillable bottles instead of plastic water bottles.

“It opens the door to the far more important question about our consumptive behaviors in general, and we can get to a point where people will start asking if they need something in the first place.”

5. Mark your calendar for ReuseFest

PRC is organizing ReuseFest on April 21, which gathers local organizations like Construction Junction, the Off the Floor Pittsburgh furniture bank, Goodwill and Global Links in one place. The event is a great a place to bring unwanted but fully reusable goods like clothing, household items and medical equipment. Stockdale estimates that over the past 15 years, PRC has collected close to 10 million pounds of materials through these types of collection events.

PRC has additional events listed here.

6. Speak up

Stockdale points out that if the public wants the city’s recycling program to improve, they need to make their voices heard.

“People should contact their local city councilors and say, ‘Hey, we want a better recycling system,’” he says. “You could leave it as broadly as that, because a better recycling system includes containers and weekly collection service, which are both initiatives being discussed in the city government.”