- 1 Recycling waste – what you need to know
- 2 What is recycling?
- 3 The 5 recycling questions you should ask before recycling anything
- 4 How can I tell if something can be recycled?
- 5 Can everything I own be recycled?
- 6 Should I recycle it? Or upcycle it? Or donate it?
- 7 Can I recycle batteries, fluorescent bulbs, electronics, and other households hazardous waste?
- 8 Where can I recycle?
- 9 Yes, please! If a business recycles, should I give them my business?
Recycling waste – what you need to know
When we throw things away, we don’t really know where they end up going or if they could be reused in some way. Waste management companies are always looking for new ways to dispose of waste, from recycling to incineration, but the bottom line is that we have to stop producing so much waste in the first place. There are plenty of opportunities to reuse and recycle waste before it goes to the landfill, so read on to learn more about what you can do when you need to recycle waste.
What is recycling?
Recycling is an easy way to reuse your materials, creating fewer landfills and conserving valuable natural resources. Recycling one aluminum can save enough energy to listen to a full album on your MP3 player; recycling 1 glass bottle conserves enough energy for 10 minutes of cooking time. Your local government regulates recycling facilities, but some tips are universal: Be aware of what’s accepted in your area before throwing anything away.
The 5 recycling questions you should ask before recycling anything
1. Is it recyclable?
2. How will it be recycled?
3. Does it belong in recycling at all?
4. What can I do with that other than recycle?
5. Why am I still throwing it away instead of just recycling it in the first place?
How can I tell if something can be recycled?
Waste management companies in most areas are responsible for recycling and/or disposing of your household’s rubbish. It is a good idea to check that they have a recycling program in place before putting items in your trash can. One of the easiest ways to do that is by checking their website or by calling them directly. If your local waste management doesn’t take an item, it will likely tell you where else you can recycle it.
Can everything I own be recycled?
Surprisingly, no. Certain items, such as old paint and car batteries, can’t be recycled. Other materials are always recyclable—but it depends on where you live as to whether there is actually a recycling facility that can process them. There are a few things you can do though to make sure everything you own goes into a recycler-friendly bin You should separate your rubbish into wet (food scraps), dry (paper or cardboard), and recyclables (glass bottles, tin cans).
If you’re buying a new appliance from a store, ask them if they have facilities for recycling it when its life is over. And if you’re shopping for furniture second-hand, find out which kinds of wood are most commonly used so that you can ensure any wood-based products aren’t painted with lead-based paints. Any large object will usually have been shipped at some point in its life; check how far away that was!
Should I recycle it? Or upcycle it? Or donate it?
Whether your trash is a pair of sneakers, a wooden chair, or an old shirt that doesn’t fit anymore, it all ends up in one place: The landfill. If everyone donated one item of clothing per month, it would result in 578 million pounds of fabric being recycled. Or better yet: re-purposed and reused. It may be hard to let go at first, but you can find creative ways for making use of old items around your home before putting them in your recycling bin.
Let us show you how: What do I do with…? How do I reuse it? How do I recycle it? Where can I donate it? What should I avoid doing with it? From shoes to books, we’re covering topics based on where they end up – recycling, donation centers, and landfills. But no matter which route you choose for getting rid of any unwanted items, our hope is that by showing you various alternatives, you’ll feel empowered to make more mindful decisions when discarding things that have outlived their usefulness instead of mindlessly throwing everything into the garbage can!
Let’s get started!
#1: Shoes You no longer wear
You’re looking through your closet searching for something presentable enough to wear tonight when suddenly… A flash of inspiration hits—you actually remember those cute heels you wore only once (way back when) because they killed your feet? Yes! We’ve saved you from having to resort to Netflix AND provided you a way to turn that less-than-stellar look into something great. More specifically, we’ve just given you two options—don’t overthink it!
1) Sell ’em online: If your style isn’t really going anywhere and there are still plenty of other people who’d love wearing those stilettos then think about heading over to eBay and starting a bidding war on your used footwear. On average, women’s shoes tend to sell for about $50-$75 on eBay.
2) Donate them: Even if you don’t plan on keeping those heels forever, why not give someone else a chance? Find a local charity that distributes clothing like Soles4Souls.
3) Kick them to the curb: You didn’t spend much money on these babies so there’s no reason why anyone else should either. Leave your worn shoes by your front door and see if anyone picks them up—hopefully, someone will give some TLC to a nice pair of second-hand shoes!
Can I recycle batteries, fluorescent bulbs, electronics, and other households hazardous waste?
The short answer is yes. Depending on where you live, there might be laws and regulations regarding what can be recycled and how recycling centers should handle these items. To help keep our landfills clean while conserving natural resources, it’s important to recycle as much as possible. Not sure if you can recycle that fluorescent bulb?
We’ve covered everything from batteries to electronics in our guide. It’s definitely worth a read! However, not all recycling programs are created equal. You may be able to drop off your waste at your local Home Depot or Best Buy, but most times you’ll have to visit a specific facility for hazardous household products.
As I mentioned before, laws vary by location so check with your city and county/parish/township offices for information about waste management. In addition to having safe places to discard your old but still-useful items responsibly, it’s also critical that toxic materials don’t end up in municipal landfills and are disposed of responsibly. What’s more irresponsible than poisoning an entire community through improper landfill disposal?
Recycling is always better than dumping unwanted goods into landfills because any chemicals inside these devices will inevitably leach into groundwater over time. Some municipalities even require recycling electronic goods like cell phones because they contain precious metals such as silver, gold, aluminum, platinum, and copper which we don’t want getting into our water supply.
Other recyclable waste includes Fluorescent Bulbs – If you aren’t using them anymore because they burnt out (or someone broke them when doing spring cleaning), leave them outside instead of tossing them in the trashcan or flushing them down your bathroom drain (some cities still do collect bulbs).
But please: Do NOT throw light bulbs in a regular garbage can! Even CFLs and incandescent bulbs made before 2007 release mercury vapors as they break down—so throwing them in a landfill mean mercury will eventually get into our soil and water table. Just because light bulbs haven’t been included in curbside recycling programs doesn’t mean you can throw them away; some states actually include compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) and certain kinds of incandescent lighting under their universal recycling symbols.
Hazardous Waste – This is stuff that has been classified as extremely harmful to human health or requires special handling during transportation, storage, processing, treatment, or disposal. There’s a reason they call it hazardous. This is true of many household and commercial products, including personal care and cleaning agents, insecticides, paint cans, and appliances with freon or other gases in them.
At-Home Care Products – Disposable diapers, feminine hygiene pads, tampons, and toilet paper are considered both non-recyclable trash as well as non-biodegradable waste because they’re largely comprised of plastics (although TP does come from wood pulp fibers). There is one exception to disposable menstrual supplies:
Menstrual cups. While these items aren’t made of biodegradable materials, they can be washed and re-used. Hopefully, there will soon be a way to recycle them too! On that note: Any kind of menstrual product you don’t flush down a toilet or toss in your trash can will go right into a trash receptacle once it’s spent. The only difference is that products like Tampax and Kotex are designed to be composted, rather than landfilled.
Be careful though: These containers usually can’t withstand composting conditions because they contain non-compostable adhesives and plastic components. Polystyrene (Styrofoam): This type of plastic won’t biodegrade because it never fully breaks down into smaller pieces. Instead, it just breaks into smaller chunks, nurdles, that wind up in our waterways and can be consumed by birds, fish, and marine life. However, polystyrene is easily recycled (yay!).
Plastic Bags – It’s hard to believe, but plastic bags are made from non-renewable resources and generate high levels of waste. That’s why many cities now offer curbside recycling programs for plastic shopping bags. Check with your local government to see if you can participate!
Where can I recycle?
It’s important to understand where your local authority can collect your recycling; it may not be offered everywhere. In many cases, only food and drinks cartons are collected through recycling, meaning there won’t be accepted in your regular bin.
You might also find that there are different rules for different types of recyclable material—plastic versus paper, for example. It’s also worth checking that your local authority accepts material from across its entire catchment area—it may only accept waste from a specific geographical location. This varies across counties and areas, so it’s worth spending some time looking into where you can recycle before dumping too much material at a recycling site that doesn’t take them.
Well-intentioned mistakes: If you have already put materials in recycling bins, don’t worry—there’s an easy way to get rid of unwanted items, even if they aren’t strictly recyclable. For example, if you want to dispose of something like old clothes or kitchen waste (which is usually incinerated rather than recycled), simply remove them from your recycling bag and put them in with your normal rubbish.
Many householders make well-intentioned mistakes when recycling such as placing dirty or non-recyclable items with their bins. Never feel ashamed about doing so – we all do it at one point or another!
Yes, please! If a business recycles, should I give them my business?
If you want your business, school, or organization to recycle, tell them why. There are many things that can be recycled and very few reasons not to do it. Think of recycling as just one more way for your community or organization to save money on waste removal and disposal costs.
Help spread the word about proper recycling by showing others how easy it is! For example, did you know that some types of glass don’t have to be put in a specific bin? Or that recyclable packaging can sometimes go right into a curbside recycling cart along with other trash? Share information like these with your community so they’ll never have an excuse not to recycle again.
They may even thank you by taking their business (or school!) elsewhere if their current provider doesn’t offer recycling services! (skip first two bullets) Should I give my business to companies that recycle?: While recycling isn’t free, it still saves money when compared to traditional waste disposal methods—so there’s no reason not to choose to recycle if your area offers it.
Consider making recycling a top requirement when evaluating prospective businesses and institutions; doing so could help improve local recycling rates over time. And remember: It’s possible for communities without access to curbside recycling programs or other options to create new ones through public-private partnerships, individual action, or both!
So talk with neighbors, family members, and friends about improving local environmental conditions – starting with paper products such as newspapers and napkins, plastic shopping bags, and anything else non-recyclable – instead of throwing those items away.