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After a six-year dispute over mislabeled shipping containers full of trash was settled, the Philippines are sending back nearly 70 containers that were labeled as recyclables. Countries that used to take our recyclables, even when they were properly labeled, are increasingly shutting down operations, with India and China recently saying they’ve had enough of our crap. So where does that leave us?

Recycling is broken in the U.S.

Chances are your recyclables are going to the landfill. Or being burned. The vast majority of them are not being recycled. There is no money in it, so to hell with the planet.

Which is why we need a broader cultural change through education. Remember that mantra that was drilled into our fifth-grade heads? “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”

The new call is to “Refuse, Reuse, Repurpose”

Our first option should be to refuse. Refuse to buy single-use plastics.

We should only use such items as a last resort and question our habits if we keep putting ourselves in the same situation.

Finally, look for creative ways to repurpose things to create value and keep it out of the landfill or incinerator.

Because otherwise, that is where it is going to end up. I personally don’t like having a lot of things, so my ideal is to refuse. It isn’t always possible because a lot of the times I’m lazy, I get tired of the lack of options, and I give in. I think most of us do.

We have to do better.

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