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Resolving to be green in 2013

It’s that time of year again, when many Americans resolve to lose weight, get out of debt and spend more time with family and friends. Many Americans also plan to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle in the coming years - so they are looking for simple steps to help the environment, according to a recent national survey.

Due to the rapid increase in recycling programs - particularly plastics recycling - it’s now easier than ever for Americans to keep resolutions to live a greener life. Recycling can keep valuable materials from being buried in landfills so they can live a second life as useful new products.

Here are some tips to help keep those resolutions:

Recycle more

Recycling programs for plastics and other materials have expanded rapidly in recent years. And many programs have expanded the number of plastic items accepted for recycling, too.

Plastic beverage, shampoo and detergent bottles and their caps are recyclable almost everywhere - more than 90 percent of communities accept them for recycling. More than half of households also can recycle containers for yogurt, margarine, cottage cheese and similar products in their communities. And plastic bags and product wraps, such as those from toilet paper, diapers, and dry cleaning, can be returned to participating retail stores (such as Walmart, Target and Lowe’s) for recycling.

To recycle as much as possible, consumers can quickly find out which plastics and other materials are accepted for recycling in their community by contacting their local municipality or www.earth911.com.

Buy recycled

So what happens to all that stuff that people set at the curb or drop off for recycling? It becomes the raw materials for things such as consumer goods and packaging.

Recycled materials, such as plastics, are increasingly used to make many of the popular products consumers use every day. Seeking out products and packaging made with recycled materials allows these resources to live a second life by closing the “recycling loop” - and it creates demand for even more recycling and recycled materials. For example, some plastic bottles and containers now are made with recycled plastics (it’s often identified on the label). And it’s fairly easy today to find durable kitchenware made with recycled polypropylene plastic from bottle caps and food packaging. Attractive outdoor furniture made with recycled high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic from milk jugs also is growing in popularity - the durable plastic makes these pieces weather-resistant and virtually maintenance-free. And a popular line of outdoor decking is made from a combination of recycled plastic bags and reclaimed wood. The number of products made with recycled materials continues to grow every year.

Wear recycled

Once reserved primarily for rugged, outdoorsy garments, recycled-plastic fabrics now can be found in a wide variety of stylish clothing available at mainstream retailers.

How does it work? Used plastic beverage bottles are melted down and stretched into a fine thread, which then is woven into soft, durable fabrics. Recycled-plastic fabrics have become popular with celebrities and fashion industry leaders, helping inspire a green movement known as “eco-chic.” These fashions allow consumers to do something good for their wardrobes and the environment.

Of course, there are many other simple steps that people can take to help the environment. But recycling more is one of the simplest resolutions to keep. With the widespread availability of recycling and the growing number of products made with recycled content, it’s never been easier to recycle, buy recycled ... and even wear recycled.

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