Most communities have recycling programs in place to help save space in landfills. Recycling isn’t hard and in the long run everyone benefits from it. If you only recycle glass and plastic you are missing out on some great opportunities to help save the planet.
Here are ten ways that you can help:
(1) Reuse Then Recycle: Try reusing things a few times before you recycle them. Plastic yogurt cups are great for starting plants in, Styrofoam egg crates can be used to store Christmas ornaments in, glass pasta sauce jars are great for storing soups in and plastic bottles can be made into bird feeders. Reusing things a few times before you recycle them helps everyone, including Mother Earth.
(2) Cardboard: For cereal boxes, tissue cartons, milk containers and other cardboard items, break them down (flatten them) and put them into a large cardboard box. Pittsburgh has recycle pick up every other week so by that time we usually have a packed box. Recycle all cardboard to save space in landfills. I’ve gotten so neurotic about it that I even recycle frozen food cartons and the plastic trays that come with them.
(3) Aluminum Cans: Most places have scrap yards that will buy aluminum cans. In California there is a CRV (cash redemption value) tax on most items that are recyclable. You pay the tax when items are purchased then you can take them to a scrap facility, have them weighed and get paid for them. On the east coast the value for aluminum and other metals has dropped but there is no CRV. Crush the cans once a week so they take up less space and cash them in once a month.
(4) Plastic Bottles: They can be reused before being recycled. Use them for storing water for your garden or make them into bird feeders. You can also use them for science projects, storing nuts, bolts and screws. Compress the bottles so they take up less space and check to see if you have to remove the plastic screw tops prior to recycling.
(5) Newspapers: Most schools and non-profit organizations have large dumpsters that you can drop your newspapers off at. They get paid by the ton for them and they use the money for supplies and field trips. Try starting a coupon recycling group in your area. If you have enough people interested you can get some great coupons to save money on your grocery bill. If you have more than twenty or so people interested in it, contact your local library to see if they have a conference room that you can use for meeting and swapping coupons.
(6) Computers & Electronics: Instead of just throwing out a computer or television, consider donating it to a charity or contacting a trade school that teaches kids and adults the art of repairing such items. If it is in working order pass it on to someone that might need it but can’t afford a new one. Check freecycle want ads too, there are always people that are looking for televisions, stereos and computers and when you pass it on to someone else it is one less thing that ends up rotting in a landfill. Some areas have battery recycling, save them up for a month or so then drop them off. The same thing goes for computer printer ink cartridges. Staples offers a buy back program where you get $3.00 (store credit) for each empty ink cartridge you bring in to the store.
(7) Clothes: I hate throwing away clothes if they are still in good shape. You can donate them to a church or emergency rescue unit to help displaced people, fire victims and the homeless. If you outgrew items or have a pile of clothing that you just don’t wear you can call local veteran charities for them to come pick them up. Some of the clothing is used for patients; others are sold to make some extra cash.
(8) Books: Consider donating your used books to your local library. They might not be able to add them to their stacks but they can use them when they have book sales. If you are going on vacation for a week or more, consider donating your home delivery newspaper subscription to a school or hospital. Magazines can be recycled with your paper pick up or donated to reading programs.
(9) Junk Mail: 90% of junk mail can be recycled with your paper goods. Please make sure that there is nothing personal in it; bank and credit card statements, payment reminders, invoices and other items that include personal information should never be added to recycled items unless they are shredded. If you really want to help the environment contact places that send you junk mail and tell them to remove your name from their list. Verizon and Comcast are two of the biggest offenders; I get at least two mailings from Verizon a week and about five per month from Comcast. No wonder their prices are so high for their services!
(10) Cellular Phones: Even if you don’t have service on them or they haven’t been used in years, there are organizations that can use them. Contact battered and abused women shelters; they are always accepting donations of phones. They are given to women who are victims of domestic abuse and violence so they can contact the police if they are in a dangerous situation. They don’t have to be fancy to get the job done.
So there are ten easy ways to recycle, some of them might even put a little extra cash in your pocket. If your community doesn’t have a recycling program in place, contact your local representatives to get one started. It will save money in dumping and landfill fees and help save the planet.