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Blog: Your Life ... Eco-Organized
Recycling Basics

Hello Everyone!
Many of us fool ourselves into thinking that when we put the garbage out on the curb and the garbage man puts it on the truck, that it disappears forever. In a perfect world, this would be true. But in our world, everyone's trash has to go somewhere and it's piling up in our landfills, our rivers, and our oceans at an alarming rate.
Recycling is one of the most important things you can do to help our planet. It's easy and convenient, and chances are you do it already.  However, you may not know how much of the stuff you use every day can be recycled: even items that don't qualify for curbside pickup can be disposed of conscientiously, with a minimum of effort.
Before disposing of anything, it's best to check with your local recycling authority for specifics. When you put non-recyclable items in your bins, it wastes time and energy for the people whose job it is to sort through them, and makes the recycling process less cost-effective (therefore increasing the price of recycled goods). Also, non-recyclable items that slip by the sorters may hinder or even damage machinery.  If you can, take a tour of your local recycling facility: it's a very educational experience.
To help you maximize your recycling power, I've classified items by material: Glass, paper and cardboard, plastics, electronics, and other
  • Glass
    • Most glass qualifies for curbside pickup, especially the type used in food jars. Other glass, like globe light covers, is not recyclable in some areas.
  • Paper and cardboard
    • Most paper, including envelopes, is recyclable. However, shred anything you wouldn't want the general public to peruse. Shredded paper can be picked up curbside in some areas, so long as it is packed inside a paper bag to keep it from blowing away.
    • Books are recyclable so long as hard covers or plastic covers, and spiral binding, are removed.
    • Gift wrap can be picked up curbside after the holidays.
    • Cardboard must in most cases be flattened and tied into 3x3 foot packages.
    • Pizza boxes, frozen food containers, and other treated cardboard items are not recyclable, nor are paper towels, tissues, toilet paper, or gift wrap tissue.
  • Plastics
    • Only some plastics can be recycled via curbside pickup. In most areas, #1 and #2 plastics are the only types accepted. Here's a list of plastics by recycling code number. Note that PVC (a.k.a. vinyl), a plastic which is considered by many to be dangerous to human and animal health, is labeled #3. This makes it easy to check products before you buy.
    • #1: PETE (Polyethylene Terephthalate), a type of polyester used in plastic soda and water bottles, medicine bottles, etc.
    • #2: Polyethylene, a heavier type of polymer used in the bottles most household products are packaged in. Also used in some grocery bags and toys.
    • #3: PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride), is used in toys, baby bottle nipples, household plumbing, raincoats, vinyl siding, plastic food wrap, and car dashboards, to name a few.
    • #4:  Low Density Polyethylene is used in grocery bags, sandwich bags, and other filmy-type plastic products.
    • #5: Polypropylene can be found in some food containers (like yogurt containers and syrup bottles), outdoor carpeting, and disposable diapers.
    • #6: Polystyrene (a.k.a. Styrofoam) is most commonly used in packing 'peanuts', as well as in coffee cups and meat trays.
  • Electronics
    • Computers, cell phones, printers, and other electronics can be recycled. Many computer manufacturers will pick up your old computer when your new one is delivered. Also, many local recycling programs have electronics drives a few times a year, so folks can bring their old gadgets to a drop-off location instead of to the recycling facility itself. Also, there are a number of independent computer and electronics recyclers in the nation, who will recycle your stuff for free if you ship it to them.
    • CD's and jewel cases: many local recycling programs don't accept them, but you can recycle your old CD's and cases. Programs like GreenDisk will recycle for free if you ship your CD's to them (see web page for details).
  • Other
    • Some batteries like rechargeable batteries, cell phone batteries, and car batteries can be recycled, but like electronics they don't qualify for curbside pickup. You can go to the Environmental Health and Safety Organization web page to find a recycling location near you. Some e-waste recyclers (like Greendisk) also accept certain types of batteries.
    • Hazardous chemicals must be safely disposed of. Paint cans and other containers can be recycled in many areas.
    • A search of your local recycler's web page will turn up all kinds of surprising recyclables. The Internet Consumer Recycling Guide is another good resource.
If you're committed to going green, recycling is a good place to begin. Here are some ideas for reusing and recycling in your own home.
  • Use plastic grocery bags as trash can liners, and paper grocery bags to hold your recyclables until trash day.  Currently, my home state of Rhode Island is the only state in the nation with a comprehensive recycling program for plastic grocery bags, but you may find options in your own neighborhood through your local grocery store: many Whole Foods locations have recycling drop-off points for plastic bags and other recyclables.
  • Reuse glass food jars (like those from spaghetti sauce, baby food, salad dressings, etc.) in place of food storage containers. Spaghetti sauce jars are great for leftover soups and stews, baby food jars for olives or sauces, and you can make your own salad dressings in the old bottles. Plus, glass is 100% dishwasher safe.
  • Use clean, empty cardboard boxes for storage. Shoe boxes are king for this. Turn them into designer organizers with a little paint, ribbon, or fabric.
  • Use shredded paper instead of bubble wrap or styrofoam peanuts to pack delicate objects for mailing or storage.
It's not hard to make a positive impact when you practice conscientious recycling. This holiday season a time when household waste levels rise dramatically commit to recycling and reusing whenever possible, and help keep the world a little greener.
One last thing: don't forget to go to www.yourlifeorganized.typepad.com and subscribe to my personal blog. When you enter your email address, you're automatically entered to win a FREE Closet Makeover with me. Better hurry, though: the contest closes December 31!
Candita Clayton

posted on: 12/8/2007 2:30:00 PM by Candita Clayton
category: General Organizing Tips

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