Tricks for Recycling: The Experiences of an Intern


Me on the first day of my internship.

Sammy Garcia, Environmental Columnist

Just last summer, I was making  rookie mistakes when it came to recycling. Then late June, I started an internship at Mujeres De La Tierra, a Latina-run environmental nonprofit organization. Within the first week, I was helping organize a theater production to educate Latino communities about the importance of conscious water use and plastic reduction. I soon realized that the recycling I had been doing was not as helpful as I imagined it was.

Recycling skills were not the only thing I realized I had been lacking in. For my internship, I had to learn to use Microsoft Excel to input data from surveys and make charts and graphs to analyze it. I was also entrusted with making contact lists in Excel and talking to the community about our projects. This required some Spanish skills that I did not have, but through practice it got easier. Overall, this experience allowed me to gain basic professional skills and opened my eyes to my culture and my personal environmental impact.

As awareness spreads about the impact that humans are having on the environment, many are switching to reusable products to limit the amount of trash that they produce. However, sometimes single-use products must be used. In this case, environmentally conscious people will most likely turn to recycling. Although it is a well known fact that recycling is a better alternative to just throwing away plastics, cardboard, and glass, many people are unaware of the steps that one must take before recycling.

Less than five percent of plastic is recycled, and part of the reason for that shocking statistic is that most people don’t know how to properly recycle. The tricks to recycle are simple and not time costly, and can increase the likelihood of a recyclable actually being reused. The easiest of these being washing your recyclables before putting them in the bin. For example, before tossing that plastic Gatorade bottle in the recycling bin, rinse it out to ensure that it won’t get rejected from being recycled because of contamination. In the case of small plastics, such as plastic shopping bags, they need to be collected until they can fill up a grocery bag. Collecting your small plastic until it is enough to fill a grocery bag decreases its chances of being rejected because it could get caught in the machines. Finally, separate your recyclables into glass, plastic, and cardboard. This makes processing recyclables a lot more efficient.

Sammy Garcia (second from left)  on the last day of her internship with Mujeres De La Tierra members.