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Thursday, April 22 officially marks Earth Day 2021. This year’s global theme is “Restore Our Earth.”

In larger settings, the plan is to discuss innovative thinking that can restore the world’s ecosystems. At the local level, Mid-America Regional Council Solid Waste Management District Outreach Coordinator Matt Riggs suggested three things that people in the Kansas City metropolitan community do to help the environment and their pocketbooks through improved recycling and composting.

First, be mindful of what can and cannot be recycled. Contamination is the biggest problem facing recycling today, he said. In fact, about 25% of what people put in their bins is not recyclable.

Things that can be recycled and placed in curbside recycling bins offered by communities are: aluminum cans, steel or tin cans, empty aerosol cans that make no hissing sound, aluminum foil and pans, cardboard, paperboard, junk mail, office paper, magazines and catalogs, phone books, newspapers, paper cartons and plastic bottles and containers Nos. 1 through 7. These numbers are located inside the arrow symbol on the container.

For better recycling methods, Riggs said to keep items loose and to not put them in bags or boxes. Other tips: rinse all containers, break down or flatten boxes and be sure items are free of liquids or food.

Also, do not include plastic bags or tubes, fast food and takeout cups and containers, paper tableware including coffee cups, Styrofoam, frozen food containers, yard waste and pizza boxes.

Other items that should also not find their way into recycling bins are: medical waste, medicine bottles, electronics and old household paints.

Riggs said in the United States, 40% of food goes uneaten. That is on average more than 20 pounds of food per person every month.

One of the first steps to reducing this waste, he said, is to plan. This includes making a shopping list and planning meals to make purchases only for those meals.

“Check the refrigerator and cupboards before heading to the grocery store or farmers market to avoid buying food you already have,” he said. “Make a list each week of what needs to be used up and plan upcoming meals around it.”

When you get home from the store, Riggs said to take the time to wash, dry, chop, dice, slice and place your fresh food items in clear storage containers for snacks and easy cooking.

Befriend your freezer and visit it often, he said.

“Freeze food such as bread, sliced fruit or meat that you don’t plan on eating immediately,” he said.

The third thing families can do to help the environment is composting. Yard waste and food waste account for about 20 to 30% of the household’s waste stream. Compost is a decayed mixture of plant waste that is used to improve the soil in gardens and yards. You can make compost from yard waste, food waste or both.

These actions are better than adding such waste to landfills or dumping. Burning, Riggs said, is no better as it causes air pollution.

A compost bin can work for leaves and grass clippings along with food waste. There are four types of ingredients needed to make great compost: browns for carbon, greens for nitrogen, air for organisms and water for moisture.

Acceptable things to add to the compost bin include: raw or cooked fruits and vegetables, breads and grains, coffee grounds and coffee paper filters, grass clippings, paper tea bags, hair and fur, dryer and vacuum cleaner lint, hay and straw, used potting soil, wood chips and cardboard rolls.

There are several things not to add to a compost bin: metal, glass, plastic, dairy products, fat or lard, meat or seafood scraps, yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides, coal, Firestarter logs or treated wood.

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at kellie.houx@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6630.

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