Recycle & Reuse


Humans are the only animals who create mountains and oceans full of waste.

  • Each person in the U.S. created on average 4.9 pounds of municipal solid waste EVERY DAY!
    (EPA, 2018)

Over the past 7 decades, plastic production has increased 24,350%. That is a lot of plastic!!

  • Plastic production has increased from 1.5 million tons in 1950 to 367 million tons in 2020.
  • 20 companies produce ½ of the world’s plastics. (Foley, 2023)
  • The largest plastic producer is Exxon Mobil. (Foley, 2023)
    Recycling materials and reusing materials are the best ways to keep waste out of landfills.

Photo: Torch Conservation Center


Glass can be successfully recycled.

In Sweden, over 95% of glass is recycled, BUT the U.S. recycles only 31% of glass products.

Michigan and other states with bottle deposits have a higher rate of recycling.

Paper can be successfully recycled.

Between 66-68% of paper is recycled in the U.S.

Plastic CAN NOT BE effectively and safely recycled

(Enck and Dell, 2022)

Only 5% of plastic is recycled into new products by American companies.

The EPA estimates 92% of plastic produced still exists somewhere and in some form. (Foley,2023)

Plastics break into smaller pieces and end up in our lakes, streams, drinking water and the ocean.

Some plastic waste is incinerated as a low-quality fuel, which releases carbon dioxide adding to global warming. The rest ends up in landfills and illegally dumped as litter.

Image: EPA Waste Management of Plastics

Image: EPA Waste Management of Plastics

Why is our plastic recycling rate so low?

  1. According to the oil industry, recycling plastics is not economical. Currently, it is cheaper to make new plastic than to improve the processes for collecting, sorting, transporting and reprocessing plastics.
  2. There are thousands of different plastics, so each type requires a different recycling process.
  3. Plastic is flammable; recycling plastic plants are prone to fires.
  4. Plastic is toxic; it acts like a sponge and soaks up toxic chemicals.

What are the benefits of recycling & reusing?

Benefits to You

  1. Saves money on trash removal costs
  2. Protects your health by removing toxins from your home

Benefits to Your Water

  1. Protects your drinking water by reducing toxins from entering landfills
  2. Reduces amount of microplastics in the environment

Benefits to Your Watershed

  1. Keeps forests from turning into landfills as old ones fill up
  2. Reduces amount of land used constructing petrochemical plants

What can you do?

Step 1. Take stock of plastics in your home.

Step 2. Choose reusable products rather than single-use plastic items.

Purchase new reusable items and keep them handy when you go out. Start with one item. Use it a few weeks, until it becomes a habit. Then, add another alternative to your life.

Inside Your Home: Bathroom

Single-Use Plastic ItemAlternative
Deodorant in plastic holder
Underarm Deodorant in Cardboard Holder
Toothpaste Plastic TubesToothpowder or Toothpaste Tablets in Glass Jar
Plastic ToothbrushBamboo toothbrush*
Dental flossSilk floss in Glass Jar
Plastic combBamboo Comb
Plastic brush Bamboo Brush
Shampoo in plastic bottle Shampoo bars
Conditioner in plastic bottle Conditioner bars
Hand soap liquid in plastic bottle Soap bars*
Body wash in plastic bottle Soap bars*
Trash can liners Paper bags

Photo: Meg Narwold

Photo: Meg Narwold

alternative bar soap

Photo: Torch Conservation Center

Inside Your Home: Kitchen

Single-Use Plastic ItemAlternative
Plastic WrapWax paper
Beeswax cloth covers *
Cloth bowl covers
Glass containers
& reusable lids
Plastic Storage Bags Stainless steel or glass reusable container

Waxed paper envelopes
Plastic Cutlery Bamboo Cutlery *
Plastic Plates Paper/Bamboo Plates
Plastic Straws Stainless steel straws */ Paper straws
Plastic Dish cleaning Brush Bamboo Pot scrubber Brush
Polyester Nonbiodegradable Sponges Crochet yarn dishcloth
Swedish reusable dishcloth
crochet yarn dishcloth

Photos: Meg Narwold

Inside Your Home: Laundry Room

Single-Use Plastic ItemAlternative
Laundry Detergent Liquid in plastic
Laundry Detergent Sheets
Reusable Plastic bottle with dry detergent refill
Fabric softeners-liquid in plastic
bottle or dryer sheets
Wool dryer balls*
Spot cleaner in plastic bottle Stain Bar

Photo: Northern Blessing Alpaca Farm

Outside Your Home: Grocery Store

Single-Use Plastic ItemAlternative
Plastic Grocery BagsBring your own Cloth Bag*
Ask for Paper Bag
Plastic Produce BagsBring your own Cloth Bag*
reusable TCC shopping bag

Photo: Torch Conservation Center

Outside Your Home: Restaurant/Take Out

reusable water bottle True Blue Torch

Photo: Torch Conservation Center

Single-Use Plastic ItemAlternative
Plastic Take home bagBring own Cloth bag*
Plastic Food containerBring own glass, stainless steel or reuse a plastic container
Plastic Water bottleRefillable metal water bottle*

Step 3. *Purchase reusable products at TRUE BLUE Gallery in Alden, MI

True Blue Gallery Alden, MI

Photo: Torch Conservation Center

Step 4. Recycle plastic items you do have.

The American Waste Plastic Recycling Machine in Traverse City is advanced and can handle many plastic items other areas cannot:

  • All plastics #1-7
  • Grocery Bags
  • Plastic Film/Wrap
  • Plastic Ziplock Bags
  • Dry Cleaning Bags
  • Bread and Food Bags

Step 5. Each week take your recyclable waste to a location near you.

Please do not litter, dump trash or leave materials outside the bins.

  • Alden- Helena Township Community Center
  • Bellaire- South M88 near Antrim County Transportation Building
  • Elk Rapids- South Bridge Street next to Municipal Building
  • Kewadin- Old Milton Township Hall on Cairn Highway

Photo: Torch Conservation Center

Links & Sources

  • Check out Antrim County Recycling.
  • American Forest and Paper
  • Enck, J. and Dell, J. 2022 Plastic Recycling Doesn’t Work and Will Never Work The Atlantic
  • Foley, C. 2023 Microplastics in the Great Lakes: 2023 Ice Breaker Series. Tip of the Mitt.
  • U.S. EPA Advancing Sustainable Materials Management Facts and Figures 2018

Don't just wish that Torch Lake will stay blue.
Choose a water-friendly lifestyle - make a difference!