Recycling Made Easy
Figuring out what you can and can’t recycle in your curbside bin can be confusing. And determining what to do with larger items can be just as perplexing. Though recycling rules vary by community, there are basic guidelines regardless of where you live. You’ll first want to contact your local recycling agency to find out what’s collected and how. Then, you’ll need to sort recyclables according to your community’s collection guidelines. Here’s how to be sure you’re recycling properly.
Recycle unbroken food and beverage containers such as applesauce jars, ketchup bottles and wine and beer bottles. (You might need to sort by color.) These items become food containers, tiles, landscaping pebbles, road surfacing and more.
Don’t recycle baking dishes, ceramics, windows, mirrors and vases, as these are a different kind of glass. Donate these household goods instead.
Recycle newspapers, magazines, cardboard and mixed papers such as corrugated boxes, cereal boxes, junk mail, catalogs, telephone books and stapled paper. These become newsprint, boxes, insulation and animal bedding.
Don’t recycle food-stained papers, tissues, stickers, wet paper products and those containing plastic, wax or metal foil coatings.
Recycle aluminum and steel (which includes tin) in the forms of beverage and food cans, disposable aluminum pans and empty paint or aerosol cans. These items become beverage cans, cookware, bike parts and tennis rackets. In addition, old steel becomes new steel and might wind up as filing cabinets, auto parts or appliances.
Do not recycle other metals curbside. Instead, donate usable items such as cookware, flatware, can openers and tools. Call your local recycling authority or a scrap-metal company for heavy loads such as house siding or old radiators.
Recycle only the types of plastic your local program accepts. (Look for the stamped number inside the triangular “chasing arrows” recycling logo, generally found on the bottom of containers and bottles.) Most programs take plastic Nos. 1 and 2, which include many beverage bottles, milk jugs, dish and laundry detergent bottles and peanut butter jars.
Don’t recycle plastics Nos. 3 to 7 unless you’re sure your program accepts these. That includes shrink wrap, squeezable bottles, dry-cleaning bags and polystyrene containers. Donate usable items (such as toys) and toss the rest—including spray nozzles, pumps and container lids.
Most appliances can be challenging to dispose of. Refrigerators and freezers, in particular, are required by law to be properly recycled due to their hazardous components.
If you’re replacing a refrigerator, check with your local utility: getting rid of an inefficient but functioning model might qualify you for a rebate and free removal. When purchasing a new appliance, some retailers will haul away your old one and send it to a recycling facility. Consider donating still-functioning appliances to a local charity. If your refrigerator doesn’t work, contact your local waste authority to have it picked up.
Unwanted TVs, computers and other common electronics are a major environmental concern due to increasing volume. Metal and glass pieces can be removed, but what’s left piles up in landfills and leaches toxins into the ground.
Now required in some states, many manufacturers and retailers have mail-in or drop-off programs for their own products. The best way to “recycle” a newer computer is to donate it for refurbishing. See www.electronicstakeback.com for options. With all electronics, ask yourself, “Do I really need a newer model?”
There are only a few mattress recycling facilities in the United States. Springs are recyclable, but there’s not a big market for the other components. Even if the store where you purchase your new mattress offers to take the old one, it could still go to a landfill. Consider donating an older mattress to a shelter or similar charity.
Check with your local waste management division for toilet disposal procedures. Though only available in limited areas, independent recyclers salvage old toilets for their replacement parts (such as lids), and crush the leftovers. Porcelain chips can be used for road paving; they’ve also found their way into composite countertops.
The mix of materials in carpeting makes it difficult and costly to separate in the recycling process. Currently, carpet recycling is handled commercially, so ask your local retailer if your old carpet will be recycled when your new flooring is installed.
Ask about recycling when you replace your old tires. Regulations in most states keep scrap tires out of the landfill, so it’s common for retailers to contract with recyclers. They’ll turn tires into rubber crumbs that become new products such as outdoor surfacing. If you have a tire at home, contact your local waste management service. Be prepared to take it to a disposal facility and pay a fee.
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