Spending time in California has brought my attention to the never-ending world of consciousness, namely involving TRASH. Not only has California mostly gotten rid of plastic bags in grocery stores, where they charge you extra to get a paper grocery bag. It is amazing though, that EVERYWHERE you go, there are not just one, but THREE options for trash. You can either trash it, compost it, or recycle it. What a beautiful thing!
Literally, almost any place there is a trash can, there are at LEAST two options (sometimes composting is left out), meaning that trash OR recycling is available just about everywhere. Raising awareness is key in a world where trash matters… but what do you do if you don’t KNOW what goes where?
I find that often, people don’t know what goes in which bin. Are straws recyclable? What about disposable coffee cups? Should you throw meat in the compost? All of these questions are valid and should be addressed so that we can better take care of our community and our planet. I did some research, and here is what I found worth reviewing.
Always recycle foil and aluminum (duh). Make sure foil is CLEAN, or reuse it as much as you can. Consider buying 100% recycled aluminum foil. You’ll be supporting a process that uses five percent less energy than the traditional aluminum foil manufacturing process.
Always recycle steel or tin cans. Recycling steel saves at least 75% of the energy it would take to create steel from raw materials. That’s enough energy to power 18 million homes.
Always recycle cardboard, of course! Currently, about 70 percent of cardboard-boxes shipped commercially are recovered for recycling.
Magazines: About 45 percent of magazines are being recycled today. Recycled magazines are used to make newspaper, tissues, writing paper and paperboard. Recycling just one ton of paper saves enough energy to power the average American home for six months, so don’t be afraid to recycle your old magazines. It’s the right thing to do.
Office Paper: Just over 45% of office paper is recovered for recycling today. High-grade papers, such as white computer paper, bond, and letterhead, can be turned back into office paper if it’s kept separate from other waste paper. It can also be used to produce tissue paper, paperboard, stationery, magazines and other paper products. Lower-grade papers, such as newsprint, colored paper, file stock and ground wood papers, are made into cardboard, tissues, newspaper and toilet paper.
Office Tip: If your company generates a large amount of waste paper, consider talking to your local recycling company about whether or not you should sort high-grade papers from lower-grade.
Newspaper is a fine insulator. Using recycled newspapers to produce cellulose insulation is widespread.
Newspapers, Wilderness Restoration and Roadside Planting: Every year natural disasters destroy countless acres of wilderness. The United States Forest Service uses “hydro-mulching,” also called “hydro-seeding,” to help restore damaged areas. It’s a planting process that’s been practiced in the United States since the 1950s – and it all starts with newspapers. Recycled newspapers are made into a fiber mulch and mixed with grass seed, fertilizer, green dye, and water to create a “slurry” that can be pumped over broad areas by pressure sprayers, airplanes or helicopters. This process is called “hydro-mulching.” It stabilizes roadside dirt for erosion control and is used to reseed grass over broad areas. Highway departments also use it to beautify roadsides by planting wildflower, tree, and shrub seeds.
Clean Paperboard: Be sure the paperboard you have is clean and free of food waste. Then recycle it.
Paper cardboard dairy and juice cartons: Also called “gable-top cartons,”these are the non-plastic milk and juice cartons you see in the refrigerated section of the supermarket.
Phone Books and Unsolicited direct mail: RECYCLE IT!
Most glass bottles and jars produced in the United States now contain at least 27% recycled glass – which also saves on energy to produce glass made from new materials. Some glass cannot be made into other products, or doing so is not economically feasible. Colored class can only ever be that color of glass. If your local recycler doesn’t participate in glass recycling, it’s due to the market for that glass being very small or non-existent. However, if glass recycling is available, it’s important to keep in mind as you recycle that even small amounts of some materials mixed in can contaminate entire loads. Find out more about the types of glass and how they are recycled below.
Clear glass may cause some products to degrade because of light exposure. That’s why about 39% of the glass produced is colored. Colored glass protects the container’s contents from direct sunlight, thus preserving freshness and flavor. About 7% of glass containers produced in this country are green in color. Some curbside programs and recycling centers take only certain colors of glass. That’s because manufacturers who buy the glass have to maintain the integrity of the color when producing new glass.
Not all glass can be recycled. The following items should not be placed into your recycling bin:
- Any glass contaminated with stones, dirt, and food waste
- Ceramics, such as dishware, ovenware, and decorative items.
- Heat-resistant glass, such as Pyrex.
- Mixed colors of broken glass.
- Mirror or window glass.
- Metal or plastic caps and lids.
- Light bulbs.
- Cathode-ray tubes (CRTs) found in some televisions and computer monitors.
Does that plastic lunch container still have yesterday’s pizza in it? Don’t recycle it until it’s clean! One dirty product, or one with food waste still in it, can contaminate an entire bale, containing thousands of pounds of collected plastics. This can cause thousands of recyclable items to go to a landfill instead of being recycled. Cleanliness is essential. And do NOT RECYCLE PLASTIC BOTTLE CAPS!
Plastics come in a variety of shapes, colors and chemical formulations – all with different recycling needs. The code number does not mean the plastic can be recycled. It is simply a way to identify the resin, or plastic type. How can you tell what kinds of plastic to put into your recycling bin? The code number on the bottom of your product is not a reliable indicator of whether something can get recycled. Recycle by shape!
Bottles, jars, and jugs – is the best way to know what is accepted. Plastic grocery and produce sacks are commonly placed in recycle bins. These bags can shut down an entire recycling plant and should be kept out of our recycling bin. Plastic bags are often collected in barrels at grocery stores, and usually end up as plastic lumber.
BATTERIES AND BULBS
American households are full of items we should recycle, even if we can’t put them into our recycle bins. Car batteries, products that use household batteries, incandescent light bulbs, and new CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) are some of them. In the United States, a CFL can save over $30 in electricity costs over the lamp’s lifetime compared to an incandescent lamp. However, CFLs contain mercury, which can be harmful to humans and the environment if not disposed of properly.
Many automotive retailers will take back batteries. You can contact your local municipality to find out where to recycle lead-acid batteries. If you’re using more than about a dozen disposable batteries in a year, you could save money by switching to rechargeables. If you still have old batteries on hand that may have been manufactured before 1997, it’s likely they contain mercury. Contact your municipality for information on how to safely recycle them or go here.
Do it properly! Electronics that are obsolete, broken, and destined for recycling or disposal are sometimes called “e-waste.” There are many chemical and mineral elements in e-waste. A circuit board contains copper, gold, silver, platinum and palladium, as well as lead. If recycled properly, this waste is a valuable source of secondary raw materials. These items include cell phones, computers, TVs and office equipment.
The following items are not commonly recycled through e-waste recycling programs. They are usually recycled through other programs. Contact your local municipality to find out how to properly dispose of them:
- Smoke Alarms/Detectors
- Fire Alarms/Detectors
- Large Appliances (Refrigerators, etc.)
- Non-Decontaminated Medical Equipment
- Any unit with Sludge or Liquids
Source for Above: http://www.wm.com/thinkgreen/what-can-i-recycle.jsp
Three things most people forget to recycle:
1. Plastic Wrap and Sandwich Bags
2. Plastic Straws and Disposable Drink Cups
Most plastic straws are made of polypropylene (#5 plastic), and home recycling programs sometimes accept this type of plastic. As for to-go cups, typically all-plastic ones (like those that iced coffees are served in) are recyclable, but the waxy coated paper ones, such as soda cups from a fast-food place, are not. No matter what, be sure to check with your waste hauler to make sure it’s accepted.
A good to know fact is that most gas station trash cans are ACTUALLY recycle cans, according to my good friend Andy Smith. I’ve yet to see any information backing that up. Bottom line, when you clean our your car make sure the recyclables go into the recycling can!
Lastly, when it comes to composting, contrary to popular belief, you CAN put meat into a compost bin (assuming it’s okay with the owner of the bin.) The problem is that it will start to smell and attract flies and maggots (as well as neighborhoods cats and dogs possibly). It also slows down the composting process.
The more you know…
I throw things away now, and I have to stop and consciously think about WHAT is this product and WHERE should it go. Is it clean? Is it worthy of the recycling process? Am I doing my part to cut down on my carbon footprint?