|Recycling basics for the home|
Recycling saves energy, landfill space and natural resources.
Home recycling requires a trivial amount of time, yet offers substantial benefit to the homeowner as well as the environment.
According to the EPA, the national recycling rate is just 30%. Increasing materials recycling in the US to 60% could save the equivalent of 315 million barrels of oil per year. Recycling is a great way individuals can make a difference, both locally and globally.
steel & copper
computers, printers, etc.
batteries 'commingled' recycling
home recycling tips
- newspapers should be saved in its own bin, as this material goes directly back into newsprint recycling. Recycling a four-foot stack of newspapers saves the equivalent of one 40-foot fir tree.
- magazines, glossy printed flyers or newspaper inserts, phone books, envelopes, computer paper, old letters, and paper packaging can be saved together in one bin.
- Staples in paper are acceptable, but remove rubber bands or plastic wrap.
- Do not include the following in your paper recycling: carbon paper, stickers, cardboard, laminated paper, laminated cardboard.
- plastic-lined paper drink cartons are recyclable. Most recycling centers now accept these items; ask locally.
- Discard fast food wrappers made from plastic, dirty or food-stained paper tissues or napkins.
- corrugated cardboard is a highly valued recyclable. Most curbside collectors ask you to bale the cardboard together and tie it with string. Check to see if there are size and weight limits to how much you are allowed to bale together. The most important thing to remember is to keep it dry. Plastic or waxy coated, and wet or greasy cardboard, such as pizza boxes, cannot be recycled because it clogs sorting machines.
Plastic does not break down in landfills, and since It can be recycled to make many diverse products, effort should be made to recycle all plastic waste. To make best use of plastics, consumers should choose the types of plastics which lend themselves most to reuse and recycling options. To learn about the recycling options for different types of plastic, read our article Plastics by the Numbers.
Recycling centers vary in the types of plastic they accept. Check with your local recycling center, and take care to buy plastic goods which are recyclable.
- plastic goods are assigned different numbers to grade them for recycling:
#1 (PET) and #2 (HDPE) for containers, #4 (LDPE) for bags, #7 for mixed plastics such as polycarbonates that are not recyclable. Almost all recycling centers accept plastics #1 and 2.
- plastic bottles are usually made of #1 PET plastic, a valuable recyclable material. Among many other items, this plastic can be "spun' into fleece fabric. Tops should be removed before recycling, and put in with your general plastic items. Polycarbonate baby bottles (#7 plastic) are not recycleable.
- because it is difficult to clean PET plastic without releasing harmful chemicals, bottles made of PET should not be reused.
- plastic grocery bags - most grocery bags are made of high density polyethylene, a Type 2 recyclable plastic. Most grocery stores have bins outside so customers can drop off used plastic bags for recycling.
- polystyrene (#6) (cups, food trays, egg cartons, etc) does not biodegrade. Ask if your recycling center accepts polystyrene for recycling; many now accept this material. Try to reduce your use of this material.
Plastic #5 - Polypropylene: one of the least recyclable plastics
Considered one of the safest plastics, #5 plastic is used for packaging items such as yogurt, cottage cheese, margarine and vitamins, and is contained in food wraps and bottle tops. It is one of the least expensive plastics to make. However, the process of recycling plastic #5 is less efficient than other plastics, and the end result has little market value.
Choose products packaged with plastic #2 (HDPE). Many companies, especially those selling
organic food, have switched to plastic #2, a better (but more expensive) alternative.
• Find out if your community has an All Plastics Recycling program which accepts plastic #5.
• Set aside your plastic #5 containers for reuse.
- glass is recycled according to color: clear, green and brown. Recycling centers prefer it when glass is separated this way. Collectively, these types of glass are referred to as "container" glass, and widely accepted for recycling.
- paper labels can be left on the glass.
- store lightbulbs, sheet glass, mirrors and pyrex separately from bottles, since they have a different composition and melting points, and not accepted by many recycling centers.
- compact flourescent lightbulbs (CFLs) may be recycled at your local IKEA store.
aluminum, steel & copper
- food cans should be rinsed and have lids and labels removed. It helps if they are flattened, although many new cans are difficult to flatten; they should still be recycled.
- aluminum cans are very valuable as recyclable items. Many recycling centers request they be not crushed flat. Check locally.
- aluminum foil and foil packaging are also important to recycle; they are reprocessed into aluminum mechanical components, such as engine parts.
- paint cans, aerosol cans are recyclable, but are considered hazardous waste and need to be kept separate from other metals. It is important to leave labels on these cans, as recyclers need to know the former contents. Try to return the lids along with empty paint cans.
- copper is one of the most recycled and recyclable of metals. In fact, copper is 100 percent recyclable, as are all its alloys, such as bronze and brass. The recycling of copper requires only 15% of the total energy otherwise consumed in mining, milling, smelting and refining.
- computers, printers and hardware:
- Pass it on. The simplest solution to recycling your old computer. Ask at a local school or put a notice on a community bulletin board offering your computer free for the taking. Many people without a computer will still find use with the word processor and basic programs.
- National Cristina Foundation (US only) - in the US, working computers can be donated to this nonprofit organization, which provides computer technology to people with disabilities, students at risk and economically disadvantaged persons.
- National Technology Recycling Project - constantly updated, nationwide directory to find the non-profit
- eBay's Rethink Initiative helps consumers and businesses learn about the different product disposition alternatives, such as recycling and refurbishing. Options are available for both working computers and obsolete or non-working computers. more info
- Share the Technology Computer Recycling Project - provides a searchable national computer donation database to connect computer donors and charities seeking donations.
- HP Recycle - for a small fee, you can have old computer equipment picked up for recycling. 'Coupon' points are available from HP towards future purchases.
- TechSoup - has compiled a comprehensive body of information to promote computer recycling and reuse. This site provides resources for those who would like to donate hardware, those who would like to acquire recycled hardware, and refurbishers.
- cell phones and rechargeable batteries:
- Office Depot will collect, free of charge, all old cell phones and used rechargeable batteries for recycling, including Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd), Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH), Lithium Ion (Li-ion), and Small Sealed Lead (Pb) weighing less than 2 lbs/1 kg. These batteries are also commonly found in other portable office electronics products including cordless phones, laptop computers, PDAs, digital cameras, and portable printers. more info
- You can also call 1-800-8-BATTERY to find out which stores in your area have free recycling programs for rechargeable batteries.
- Barclay T-Waste - recycling and disposal program will recycle unwanted phones and equipment at no charge. Usable parts will be recycled, unusable materials will be disposed of properly.
- Collective Good - how to donate cell phones or other PDAs to the charity of your choice.
- Cell For Cash - this company will pay you for the value of a reusable cell phone.
- Find Collection Location by Brand Name - check here for manufacturers' local collection locations for recycling cell phones and other wireless devices.
- Find Collection Location by Zip Code - check here for local cell phone recycling locations.
- Sprint Project Connect - check here for the nearest Sprint Store location to recycle wireless phones and help raise funds for people with disabilities.
- Staples Store Locations - cell phones, PDAs, pagers, and rechargeable batteries are accepted at Staples stores for reuse/recycling by the CollectiveGood organization. more info
- ReCellular - a global leader in the collection and recycling of cell phones. This service also provides a free online Data Eraser that removes all personal information from your cell phone prior to recycling.
"Commingled" Recycling at Home
Some communities are using a new recycling program called "commingling". Most recyclable items are simply put in one larger container, without sorting. The sorting is done by the recyclers. Tin, aluminum, plastic and all kinds of paper, including newspapers, cardboard and junk mail, can be tossed together in the blue cart.
some materials still need special handling. Glass must still be separated
by color in paper bags. Most people use the standard recycling blue box
for this purpose. Motor oil still should be in a non-glass container with
the lid screwed tight and a label that clearly states it is used motor oil.
These items are picked up separately from your recycling cart.
Other exceptions include fluorescent light bulbs, styrofoam, electronics and plastic garden pots, which cannot be commingled.
home recycling tips
- visit your local recycling center and find out what meterials they accept for recycling. Then set up your bins accordingly.To find the recycling center nearest you, call: 1 800-CLEANUP
- put storage bins in place - The key to a successful home recycling program is the storage bin setup. Once you learn which materials your local recycling center accepts, set up a corresponding storage bin system. The garage is a good place to locate the bins; if using an open car port the lids will need to be covered to secure the contents from pests and wind. Once your system is set up, recycling is easy!
- use plastic bags or totes to store materials for recycling. Paper bags can be leaky, and rip easily. Try to use smaller containers, as they will be easier to lift when full.
- label recycling bins to ensure materials are separated correctly.
- choose products with the highest percentage of "post-consumer" recycled content
Two types of recycled materials are used in manufacturing products and packaging:
pre-consumer - often referred to as mill scraps recycled internally at manufacturing plants.
post-consumer - returned by consumers, through recycling programs, to the manufacturing process.
- clean bottles and tins before putting in the recycling bin. This prevents flies both at home and the recycling station.
- put a 'no junk mail' sticker on your letter box. You'll be amazed at how much this reduces your rubbish.
- join the Freecycle™ movement - the idea is simple: you give away for free what you have and don’t need and you receive for free what you need, but don’t have. This ‘free cycle’ of goods keeps lots of useful stuff out of landfill sites and is about thinking globally and recycling locally. more info
Close the Loop: Buy Recycled!
The value of recyclables is driven by market demand. As consumers, we must choose products with recycled content and packaged in recycled materials, so that the materials we recycle are put to use, and markets are sustained. These products can typically be made with recycled content:
Packaging: Boxes for foods such as cereal, crackers and cake mix. Bottles containing liquid laundry detergent, dishwashing liquids, shampoos and household cleaners.
Paper products: Facial tissue, toilet paper, napkins, paper towels, greeting cards, writing paper and corrugated cardboard shipping boxes.
Plastic products: Coat hangers, desk accessories, storage organizers, patio furniture, playground equipment and toys.
Automotive: Re-refined motor oil, retread tires, rebuilt/remanufactured parts and used cars.
Garden Supplies: Hoses, planters and mulch.
Clothing and accessories: Tennis shoes and hiking boots. Clothing fabric made of recycled plastic bottles.
Home maintenance: Carpeting, door mats, roofing, wallboard, paint, insulation, gutters and down spouts, siding and flooring.