Today is America Recycles Day. I’ll bet you didn’t even know we had such a holiday. It’s not a get-off-work holiday, but it’s real just the same. Today, thousands of people around the country will join together in hosting events that create awareness about why, where, and how to recycle. Although this tends to be a day when wasteful companies use recycling as green marketing tactic, it’s not all fluff.

Despite the fact that participating companies like Pepsico, Johnson & Johnson, and GLAD are huge consumers of our natural resources and even bigger producers of waste, recycling is a start, and it’s better than nothing. But instead of focusing on what corporations aren’t doing, let’s focus on what we the people are doing, and how America Recycles Day can help us do it better. Three very important tips are waiting for you after the jump.

America Recycles Day
Image via ARD

1. Recycling is the last resort. Everyone seems to forget that recycling is the last of the three R’s, which have now become the five R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Repurpose, and Recycle. This means recycling should be a last resort. Diverting waste from the landfill doesn’t start with recycling, it ends there. Recycling starts before you make a purchase. Choose items packaged in reuseable containers (glass or metal) made from biodegradable materials. When the product is past its prime, look for a way to reuse it, or offer it to someone who can. Attempt to fix things that are broken. Only when all other options have been exhausted should you head to the recycling bin.

2. Upcycling is better. Did you know that recycling most materials only delays their journey to the landfill? It doesn’t divert them completely. That’s because recycling of most materials results in a lower grade material. Plastic is the most notorious example of this. After a few rotations, plastic becomes so weak and worthless that they still throw it out. A better term for this is “downcycling” and it’s what lots of programs do rather than true recycling.

3. E-Waste recycling is vital. While there are plenty of ways to keep waste out of the downcycling/recycling circuit, there is one waste stream that’s absolutely imperative to increase recycling rates: electronics. Mobile gadgets have take over our lives, and as a result they’re sucking up a vast amount of precious resources. What’s worse, companies like Apple and Microsoft depend on us buying new gadgets every two years, so the ones they’re making now aren’t built to last. Most electronics aren’t even broken when they’re discarded, and the ones that are can usually be repaired.

This is one area where America Recycles Day can actually be effective. Many of the ARD celebrations planned around the nation are electronics recycling collection events. Some of these are in areas where electronics recycling is limited or unavailable for most of the year. If you’ve got a drawer or shelf of old, broken gadgets, use this tool to find an event in your area, and pledge to recycle them today. Additionally, you can check our our list of responsible e-waste recyclers that would be happy to collect them any day.