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Due to the lack of a nationally standardized system for recycling, it’s not always easy to know what you can recycle at home.
Glass, metal, and paper are easy wins, but what about plastics, lightbulbs, or motor oil?
How do we dispose of these?
Well, to answer these questions and more, here are the basics to set up your home for recycling success.
Know the Local Rules
Many countries do not have an agreed set of standards that precisely define what can and cannot be recycled. Therefore, the local government sets its own rules and regulations based upon the economics of the materials involved.
So, to maximize your recycling efforts, it is best to investigate recycling rules within your local area.
You can also check your local refuse provider website. Here you will find comprehensive information about what is or is not suitable for your recycling containers.
Most refuse providers also have apps for your smartphone where you can instantly check their recycling requirements.
Make good recycling habits your lifestyle choice
When you build recycling into your life and make it a lifestyle choice, you will form good habits that will last a lifetime and positively influence those around you.
By recycling little and often, you will be happier, be a great role model for your kids, and have a clean and fresh-smelling home. In addition, you will reduce your landfill trash levels by over 75% in one month and save money on purchases.
Recycling is all about creating good habits, and it’s these habits that will turn our throwaway system into a circular system. And by operating in a circular system, we can reduce the need for extracting, transporting, and refining new raw materials from mother earth.
Create Recycling Stations
Recycling is easy if you create easy-to-access recycling container storage stations within your home.
I recommend setting up a small station near a sink where you can rinse out and temporarily store bottles and cans easily. I have another small station by the door for paper etc., and I periodically empty these into my recycling bins.
I have also set aside a container in my freezer for organic kitchen waste.
By freezing peelings, houseplant leaves, and food scraps, I keep odors down and reduce the need for frequent trips to the compost pile.
You can set up as many or as few recycling stations as you please, but I find these to be my optimal number.
Keep items loose
Always leave items loose, do not bag things together, and flatten boxes to preserve space.
These actions will reduce transportation costs and the associated pollution levels and make sorting easier at the recycling facility.
Learn What Each recycling symbol Means
As the number of recyclable materials grows, so does the number and type of recycling symbols.
These symbols can usually be found on the bottom or near the base of most packaging and are useful for separating recyclables from the trash.
By knowing and understanding these symbols, you’ll be able to help reduce landfill waste levels, decrease your carbon footprint, and help the environment.
Sort your waste by the recycling symbols
The universal recycling symbol found on packaging will inform you how recyclable that packaging is. It is also beneficial for presorting your waste.
A major benefit of recycling is the reduction of time, money, resources, and energy expended in making new packaging from old, so this could really help.
However, you should also review what kinds of plastic you are allowed to recycle locally.
For example, black PET (plastic #1) food trays may not be recyclable with clear and white plastics in your local area.
The technology to recycle colored plastics is expensive and not available in all facilities at present.
The same is true for bottle tops, and these are usually subject to differing instructions in numerous localities.
Recycle as much paper as possible
It is not just newspapers that you can recycle at home. You can also, recycle envelopes, birthday cards, non-waxed comics, notepaper, and the tissue paper used for packaging.
All sorts of paper can be recycled, and by doing so, we can save the trees and keep our world green.
Phone books can be recycled, but it’s better for the environment if you were to just opt out of receiving one at all.
Think Before You toss Paper into the recycling
Unfortunately, some paper items like wrapping paper, packaging, and leaflets cannot be recycled unless it specifically states that they can. This is due to the waxy coating or toxic to wildlife ink present on some papers.
It may also be that the paper has been recycled beyond its limit, and now the fibers are too brittle to form new paper. However, this paper is still compostable and is therefore great for garden usage.
Are Books recyclable?
Traditionally books were sewn and bound together with thread and may or may not have been glued together.
Glue can interfere with the recycling process, and as such, some recyclers refuse to accept books altogether.
Therefore, ancient books can be recycled, but it is costly and time-consuming for the recycler who may have to guillotine the pages.
Old and new books can also be recycled. However, due to the glue, string, and other materials within the book, it is more likely that only specialist recyclers will actually do this.
Therefore, there is no way of knowing that your recycler will actually recycle them (even if they accept them).
In truth, there is a chance that your books will be tossed into a landfill or incinerated, and neither option is good for the planet.
Recycle a Book the traditional way
Here are some traditional ways to recycle your old books:
- Donate your books to Freecycle.org.
- Gift your books to family and friends.
- Contact BetterWorldBooks.com, which funds literacy initiatives worldwide.
- Donate your books to a charity of your choice.
- Offer your books to a local shelter, refuge, orphanage, or home for the elderly.
- Approach your local library and ask if they are accepting donations.
- Place “free books swap boxes” around your community area then place books in there for anyone to swap, take and enjoy. (check first if it’s okay to leave the box)
- Sell your books on places like Amazon or eBay.
Which Plastic Bags Can Be Recycled?
Plastic bags that are clean, dry, and free from food waste or other contaminants and are made from LDPE (#4) or HDPE (#2) can be recycled.
To facilitate recycling, most bags will carry the words “can be recycled” or similar symbols or imagery towards the base of the bag.
In addition, most grocery stores operate a dropbox system where you can place plastic bags for recycling. Plastic bag recycling bins are typically found near store entrances.
However, non-recyclable bags placed within the recyclable bags will taint the whole batch, so if in doubt, leave it out.
A high-quality reusable bag has the potential to replace over 600 single-use plastic bags over its lifetime, significantly reducing plastic bag litter and conserving natural resources.
Most metallic items in the home can be recycled
To recycle aerosol cans, you should first fully empty the can, detach the lid and remove any loose parts. You can then place these parts with the relevant recycling products and place the can in the metal recycling container.
However, if it’s a nonhazardous aerosol product like whipped cream, your recycler may not accept it.
Never crush, flatten or pierce an aerosol can to remove any remaining product, as the can may explode.
Around 60% of aerosols are tinplate steel, and the remaining 40% are made from aluminum, so they are both highly recyclable.
Metal cans and containers are recyclable, but please wash them out first.
When in doubt – Find out or keep it out
If you doubt what you can recycle, always check your local authorities’ information website first.
Putting unrecyclable items in your recycling bin will contaminate all the recyclable items in the batch, meaning they can’t be recycled.
Furthermore, if your batch is added to the truck, that whole truck will be rejected and the contents sent to the landfill.
So when in doubt, find out or keep it out.
And never put your excess garbage in your recycling!
Follow the rules to recycle household hazardous waste (HHW)
Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) is generally classed as a chemical or product that can harm the environment or a living organism if improperly stored or disposed of.
Therefore, HHW materials have specific and separate regulations about their storage, transportation, and disposal methods to prevent potential harm to you and the environment.
Failure to follow your local authorities’ rules and regulations about HHW may result in heavy fines or prison sentences. So please check out the rules and follow them to the letter.
Never dispose of household hazardous waste materials down the home sink, toilet, storm drain, or mix them into the garbage or recycling waste. Aside from the genuine danger to wildlife, you are also endangering the lives of the recycling and landfill employees.
What types of products are classed as HHW?
Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) is a chemical or product considered toxic, corrosive, flammable, reactive, or irritant.
Examples of Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) include items such as batteries, paint, household cleaners, fertilizers, antifreeze, propane tanks, medications, sharps, mercury thermometers, motor oil, and asbestos.
You can find a hazardous waste drop-off facility in your area by checking with your local county or city waste management department.
Clean and Sort All Products For Recycling
To help your recycling center and to reduce odor and vermin problems, you should always wash your products destined for recycling before sorting.
One dirty container may contaminate a whole batch of recycling and be why a truckload of recycling is rejected and sent to a landfill.
You can avoid this by rinsing out bottles and fully washing out cans and glass containers before sorting and placing them in the appropriate recycling bin.
Furthermore, Check with your local authority for any special recycling instructions specific to your locality.
Some recycling centers require you to remove all plastic bottle tops and lids before collection whilst others will require them to be left on.
There is no standard rule.
Make use of your community recycling drop-off containers
In addition to a curbside pickup service, many authorities also provide community drop-off containers for larger items or bulk drop-offs.
Make use of these important facilities and encourage your children to tag along – it’s never too early to learn about the importance of recycling!
Flatten Cardboard boxes And Containers
To aid pick up and save space both at home and on the collection truck, it’s important always to flatten your cardboard boxes. Larger boxes can be cut into smaller pieces.
You can leave any tape, labels, and stickers on the boxes, but they must be empty of all packaging materials and contaminants such as grease.
Dad’s Tip: Egg cartons can be crushed sideways to save room.
Not all cardboard can be recycled
Pizza boxes and other cardboard food containers can often be contaminated with grease, or foodstuffs rendering them useless for recycling.
However, not all the cardboard is lost as the contaminated parts can be cut off and thrown in the trash. The remaining cardboard cutouts can then be recycled as normal.
Other cardboard which may be ineligible for recycling is plastic or wax-coated cardboard, such as frozen food boxes.
These types of cardboard are difficult to process, so; please check with your local municipality before placing these into your recycling containers.
glass Can Be recycled Endlessly
Glass can be recycled endlessly; it does not wear out as the raw material and can be recycled over and over again.
In fact, for every ton of glass recycled, it saves 1330 pounds of sand, 433 pounds of soda, 433 pounds of limestone, and 151 pounds of feldspar required to create new glass!
However, not all glass can be recycled, so please check with your local authority for any special recycling instructions.
The types of glass that may be rejected from recycling facilities include:
- Lab glass or test tubes
- Colored glass vases
- Window (plate) glass
- Frosted glass
- Incandescent lightbulbs
- Drinking cups
Did you know that recycling just one glass bottle saves enough energy from the manufacturing process to light a 100-watt bulb for 4 hours?
How To Recycle Through The Mattel Toy PlayBack Program
Mattel, Inc. recently launched its own toy takeback program, called Mattel PlayBack. The program is designed to recover and reuse materials derived from old Mattel toys to make new toys.
And for those materials that cannot be recovered, Mattel will either downcycle the materials into other products or convert the materials into energy.
Plus, participating in the takeback program is easy, and the process is virtually free.
To participate, head to the company’s website and fill out a brief form. From there, you’ll be provided with a free, printable, prepaid shipping label for your toys.
Recycle By gifting
One of the oldest forms of recycling and giving new life to old products is the process of gifting.
You can gift your unwanted items to family, friends, thrift stores, charities, or the homeless.
Just be sure that they are clean, serviceable, and meet all the health and safety requirements first.
How To Recycle DVDs and CDs
The recycling options for DVDs and CDs are minimal due to the number and different types of plastics contained within them.
For example, the CD cases are polystyrene (#6 plastic), and the discs are polycarbonate (#7 plastic). The casing of the tapes is polypropylene (#5 plastic), and the tape is polyethylene terephthalate (#1 plastic).
And the economic cost of recovery for these plastics is high when compared to the benefits gained.
So the best option for recycling is to keep them in their current form and be imaginative.
For instance, you could create a unique art project, and gift them to charities, hospitals, or homes for the elderly.
Or, if you run out of ideas, you could mail your media to a company like the CD Recycling Center of America or GreenDisk.
Recycle Your food waste into compost
Do you know that organic waste makes up about 40% of your household waste, rising to about 60% in the summer months?
So why not recycle your food waste by making compost out of it.
And the good news is, if you are limited in garden space or live in an apartment, you still have options. Today, composting technology has moved a long way, and the whole process has been incredibly simplified.
Basically, pretty much anything that was once alive or made through a natural process can be composted. And it is not uncommon to find simple waste collectors, worm composters, or Bokashi composting systems in people’s homes these days.
However, you will need a small outside space for your Bokashi pickled waste.
These systems come complete with instructions and starter kits containing everything you need. Just don’t fill them up with rotting meat, fish, or fat, as these tend to smell as they decompose.
However, the juice you will strain off from these systems is 100% perfectly organic and can be used as a natural fertilizer for your plants.
AND IT’S TOTALLY FREE!
Don’t waste Your water – Recycle It!
Rainwater can be diverted into a water butt and used for all of your potted and container plants.
And if you start using biodegradable soap, you can water your plants with leftover bath or sink water.
Recycle out-of-date technology
It would help if you always tried to recycle your devices and reduce waste by repairing or upgrading your device to extend its life.
If you no longer wish to keep it, consider selling it, use trade-in opportunities, or donate it to an organization that accepts e-waste.
Some companies offer collection services and may even pay you for your old gadgets. Just make sure you reset them first and remove any personal data.
How to recycle electronics
Some local authorities collect small electrical items as part of their curbside collections, but most will require you to take them to your local household waste collection centers.
And it’s easy to check if a small electrical item is recyclable by simply asking the following questions, and if the answer is yes, then it’s recyclable.
- Does it have a plug?
- Does it use batteries?
- Does it need charging?
Lots of items fall into the small electronics category, and some of these are:
- Cell phones or landline telephones
- Kettles, toasters, and blenders
- Computers, laptops, tablets, or computer accessories
- Copiers, printers, or fax machines
- Torches, vacuum cleaners, hairdryers, and radios
- DVD or VCR players, stereos, TVs, and game consoles
Furthermore, Electronic Waste (also known as e-waste) has specific disposal regulations attached, so you must never dispose of them in your trash.
This is due to the various toxic, flammable, and hazardous chemicals and metals contained within them.
However, e-waste is full of valuable recycling materials such as gold, steel, nickel, zinc, aluminum, and various plastics, all of which can be recovered and reused.
Always Do This Before You Recycle a Phone
Whether you mail or take a phone to a store to recycle, you must protect your personal data by backing it up on a different device and deleting the phone of your personal data,
You will also need to remove any data you may have on an iCloud account if you’re recycling an Apple phone or device.
Always make sure that you erase all content and settings, complete a full security wipe, and complete a full factory data reset.
However, up to 80% of a phone is recyclable, so don’t send it surreptitiously to a landfill or leave it in a drawer somewhere – recycle it!
Which Lightbulbs Can Be Recycled?
Not all lightbulbs can be tossed into the trash and forgotten about.
Energy-efficient bulbs like CFLs (compact fluorescent lightbulbs) and some LEDs (light-emitting diodes) contain mercury which is harmful to people and the environment.
Therefore all CFLs and LEDs must be removed with care and disposed of responsibly and not thrown into the trash.
Only incandescent and halogen bulbs can be thrown away in the trash as they do not contain any harmful chemicals or components.
How To Remove And Recycle Energy-Efficient Lightbulbs
When removing an energy-efficient lightbulb from the socket or ceiling fitting, you must first turn off the power to the bulb to reduce the risk of electric shock.
Secondly, using a cloth or gloved hand, remove the bulb with gentle pressure being careful not to break the glass or damage its base.
Next, wrap the bulb in tissue or newspaper and place the bulb into a plastic bag with a zipper.
This will ensure that if the bulb or bulbs break at any time during transit, the mercury will not leak out.
(If you have multiple bulbs, you should use multiple bags to reduce the chance of breakage).
Finally, it would be best if you took your energy-efficient lightbulbs to the appropriate recycling facility.
However, not all states will accept bulbs containing mercury, so you should first check your state’s regulations.
Seven states have banned lamps containing mercury from landfills
Alternatively, you can also drop them off at the used lightbulb collection point found in many general stores or post them to a recycling company.
The following companies offer mail-back recycling programs for CFLs:
- Recycle Nation
- HolidayLEDS.com’s holiday lights trade-in program
- WM Lamp Tracker
- Republic Services
Why It’s Important to Recycle CFLs
- All the individual components of CFL lightbulbs are fully recoverable and can be recycled into new bulbs or products.
- Each CFL contains 4 milligrams of mercury, which is harmless when the bulb is intact but potentially toxic to people and the environment if the bulb breaks.
- Mercury is a precious metal in limited supply, so recovering even the trace amounts is crucial
How to recycle used motor oil
Don’t try to dump used motor oil as motor oil is considered to be a hazardous waste. Therefore if you are caught, you could face serious fines and clean-up costs or worse.
Always check with your local recycling center or authority, as you will be required to dispose of any used motor oil in a way that it doesn’t contaminate the environment or water supply.
However, If you take your car in for any work requiring an oil change, oil disposal is always part of the service.
For you, this means no work and no worries.
In addition, local garages and auto parts stores may accept used motor oil if you ask them and may even view it as part of their non-disclosed services.
You can also check if your state has a list of places to take your oil. As an example, California has a searchable tool to help you find used oil-certified collection centers.
Going green and recycling is always a good idea, although it does require a little effort on your part.
However, you will be enriching your lifestyle, and you will also be helping the environment.
And this list might seem a little long, but you don’t have to do all of them all at once. Just pick one, or a few, as you will be making a positive difference somewhere just by doing this.
Trust me; the world will be thanking you for it.
Good luck and happy recycling!