This past week, we celebrated Earth Day, and what better way to celebrate the planet we call home than by reducing our contribution to landfills? The average American produces 4.4 pounds/ 2 kg of trash every day, and little of it is recycled. Recycling helps both the environment and the economy by keeping materials local and creating jobs in the recycling and waste processing industries. Ever since we began recycling, we have lowered our non-recyclable waste production to only one bag every 3 weeks. And the good news is that you can too! Let’s take a look at 8 easy ways you can start recycling today.
Before we dive in to the details, you may think, “This is great, Sarah, but where can I recycle?” I understand. It took me a while to figure out where to take my recycling. While many communities offer curbside recycling pickup, many don’t. Earth 911 offers a recycling center locator. Simply type in the type of material you would like to recycle and your zip code, and it will give you a list of recycling drop-off locations near you. Make sure to keep reading for even more tips on what and where to recycle.
This is by far the biggest amount of recyclable waste we produce. Most recycling places (a quick Google search should show you the nearest recycling facility) will accept plastic #1,2, and 5. This includes but is not limited to plastic bottles, jugs, cups… Always check the plastic number (usually located at the bottom of the container) before throwing it with your recyclables. Grocery plastic bags can also be recycled at most grocery stores like Walmart, Target, Publix, or Kroger among others. Of course, it’s even better if you bring your own reusable bags with you in the store. This will also make it much easier to carry your groceries back inside your home in fewer trips.
2. Paper & Cardboard
Our second largest source of recyclable trash is paper and cardboard. Boxes, junk mail, notes, paper sack, or even shredded paper… can all be recycled. As long as the paper product is not soiled like greasy pizza boxes or muddy shipping boxes, it can be recycled. I keep a paper sack or box in a corner of the kitchen, but if you have a garage or mud room, that would be a great place for it, too.
It takes us a while to fill a bag of cans, but I keep them outside in a large metal bin and take them to the scrap yard when it gets full. One bag of cans will only bring about $1, but it will make you feel great about diverting trash from landfills that can later be turned into a new bike or appliance. Cans are the most common source of recycled aluminum, but pizza pans and deodorant sprays can also be recycled along with your cans.
This is my favorite recycling secret to share! So few people know that glass can be recycled at ALL Target stores in the United States. Click here to view the 2010 Target press release announcing the beginning of the recycling program. Brown, green, or clear glass, they take it all! Target recycling stations are located at the front of each store, often near the customer service desk. They also accept aluminum cans, plastic beverage containers, and small electronic devices (more on that below). Just one more reason to love Target!
5. Food Scraps
If you have a yard, then consider creating a compost space for your food scraps. Fruit and vegetable peels, eggshells, leftovers… it’s all organic, biodegradable matter. We are lucky enough to live in the country, so we have plenty of yard space to pile our scraps. Simply make sure to dedicate a space far enough away from your house to avoid attracting rodents and decaying smells.
6. Old fabrics
If you’re like me, you are constantly looking for ways to make room in your closet. One of the greatest ways to do this is by donating old, gently-worn clothing to local charities or consignment stores like Goodwill. But what about that stained dress you once loved or these torn jeans you can’t fix? No worries! Most Goodwill stores recycle old torn or stained clothing and linens that cannot otherwise be sold. If you don’t want to throw away your old clothes and send them to landfills, consider taking them to Goodwill. Before dropping off your old fabric, make sure to label your bags as “salvage” to make it easier on the crew sorting through donations.
Electronic waste or e-waste has become a huge issue in recent years as technology develops faster and faster. Almost all e-waste is recyclable, yet a vast majority of it still ends up in landfills. Did you know Americans throw away hundreds of pounds of precious metals like gold, silver, and copper every year? These precious metals are embedded in the mother boards of many electronic devices and could be retrieved and recycled.
Goodwill Industries partners with Dell Reconnect to recycle electronic waste. All donations are eligible for a tax-deductible receipt and kept in the United States for processing and recycling. The data is erased and destroyed from each electronic device before being disposed of in an environmentally-friendly manner. Click here to find the nearest Dell Reconnect location. Goodwill stores also accept other types of electronics that are not included in the Dell Reconnect program. Donated electronics in working condition are refurbished and resold while those in non-working conditions are recycled. Make sure to contact your local consignment store ahead of time to ensure they accept your donation.
So, exactly what type of electronics can you donate?
- Computers (laptop*, PC, desktop*, tablets…)
- Hard drives*
- Ink and toner cartridges*
- Tape players
- DVD players
- Game consoles (Xbox*, Play Station…)
- Phones (cell phones, portable house phones…)
- Fax machines
- Answering machines
Items marked with a * are part of the Dell Reconnect recycling program
If for some reason, you were unable to locate a participating Goodwill near you, consider donating elsewhere. Earlier, I mentioned the possibility of recycling small electronics at Target such as MP3 players, cell phone, or ink cartridges. Cell phones of all kinds can also be donated to our service men and women. Click here to learn more about Cell Phones For Soldiers.
8. Christmas Lights
Home Improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowes offer Christmas lights recycling program during the holiday season. Take your Christmas lights to the recycling bins located near the entrance of the store, and you may even be rewarded with store credit! Contact your local home improvement store to see if they offer christmas light recycling.
If you decorated a real Christmas tree this year, you can also take it to Lowe’s and Home Depot to be recycled. Avoid using flocking (white, snow-like) powder as it renders your tree un-recyclable. You could also chip your tree into mulch or throw small branches into a pond if you have one to create a refuge for fish and other aquatic organisms. Please, do NOT burn your christmas tree in your chimney as it contains highly flammable oils that could cause a house fire.
“Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife, are in fact plans to protect man”Stewart udall
If you find yourself needing to get rid of an item because you no longer need it, ask yourself whether it could be of use to someone else? Your grandmother’s floral dishes or your children’s old favorite toys could become someone else’s new treasure. If your item is not in a good enough state to be donated to a consignment store, consider posting it online for free. Facebook Marketplace is a great place for that, and I was able to divert items from landfills that way. My flat screen tv that no longer worked went to a man who dissected it for parts. My dusty basketball-shaped chair whose fake leather had begun to peel off went to a coworker who cleaned it off and covered it with a blanket for her grandson. Never forget that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!
DID YOU KNOW?Glasses can be donated through the Lions Club eyeglass recycling program. I found out after getting PRK laser refractive surgery when I was looking to give new life to my now useless prescription glasses.
Comment below to share what type of materials you recycle the most and what locations in your community offer recycling opportunities.
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