Introduction: How to Recycle Anything and Avoid Using Landfills
You have probably heard it a million times already - reduce, reuse, recycle. Or collect, recycle, reuse. Yes, it's important. Why, you might ask? Because it saves resources. It saves trees, metals, oxygen, water, animals. Millions of tonnes of various materials go to waste every year. At this rate, there might be a resource shortage in a generation or two. And, I don't know about you, but I want my children to have a planet to live on, so I recycle. For a brighter future of sorts. Of course it's time consuming, after all everything good takes an effort to achieve, but there are good news, too - we, as a race, are starting to realise how important recycling is and governments are working on making recycling easier.
With the introduction out of the way, we can proceed towards the core of the problem - the knowledge what and how to recycle. Might as well start with...
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Step 1: The Kitchen – What Goes to the Landfill
If you are thinking of recycling porcelain or ceramic plates, bowls, cups etc. it's probably not going to happen. Those materials are among the few which are not being processed by most recycling programs. The best way to get rid of your old dining sets would be to donate them. Friends in need, charity programs, second-hand stores - those are perfectly viable ways to reuse. It's a bit easier with metal equivalents. If your local recycling program accepts scrap metal, then you are in for a treat. Otherwise, they are to be sent to a nearby rubbish tip. Teflon-lined pans and skillets are most often not accepted at the recycling stations. And a word of advice if you are getting rid of old knives - please make sure you leave some kind of note, or simply write on the container, signifying that there are sharp items inside. Nobody has to get hurt!
Plastic containers are usually fairly easy to recycle. Since the "Resin Identification Code" system, available for you to see right here in the step 6 picture, it has become easier to identify what types of plastic your local recycling centres accept. Just look at the bottom/back of the container and note what the number inside the triangle is. Voila, you have your type.
Step 2: The Bathroom.
If you are thinking of bottles - namely shampoo, hair gel, body wash, face wash, mouth wash ones - keep something in mind. Their resin code is most probably 2 or 4 and this makes them extremely recyclable. Aye, they are plastic, but they can be reused pretty easily.
Medications are a bit dangerous to throw away without taking precautions. Your old prescriptions can help. Before disposing of the packaging and instructions of the medicine, make sure you check if there are any directions about how to recycle the medicine itself, just in case you don't use all of it. In some communities there are special take-back programs for medicine. Sometimes you can flush them. In any case, if you are about to dispose of various medications by yourself, here is a smart advice: mix the pills with some ground coffee, kitty litter or pretty much anything obnoxiously smelly and disgusting, package the mix and throw it in the trash can. Why? To prevent animals or children or even adults take your medication when they don't need it. Also - make sure to erase any personal information on the packaging.
Plastic shower curtains are not very recyclable. PVC plastic is not reusable and is not accepted by the majority of recycling facilities. Landfills are a nice alternative. However, you can definitely re-purpose a curtain or liner into some kind of crafty hanger or a drop cloth for your crafts. Hey, how about using it as a waterproof cover for your bike?
Remember those cardboard cones inside your toilet paper and kitchen towel rolls? Those are amazingly recyclable and are to be put together with the other paper. There are certain companies which produce tubeless toilet paper. And that saves quite a bit of trees!
Toothbrushes are pretty tough to recycle. Usually, they are made of three types of materials: plastic (the handle), nylon (the bristles) and metal (usually wiring that holds the construction together). Some municipalities have specialised equipment for those, some do not. It's up to you if you want to ask about it!
Home cleaning products should be disposed of quite carefully. Every detergent ranging from floor polish to drain cleaner is considered a cleaning product. Green (natural) products are always a personal choice, but they are disposed of freely, without danger of polluting the environment. However, if your choice are the strong chemicals, you have to be careful. Usually the detergents are created to interact with water. This is easy since everything goes down the drain. So just grab the bottle and dump the contents in the sink. Clean the container nicely afterwards and check the material to decide which recycling bin to put it in. All the sponges, sticks, pads and other tools can go to the trash bin. Special chemicals like oven cleaners and furniture polish are another story. You should either read the instructions or call the manufacturer to learn how to dispose of it safely.
Step 3: The Living Room.
If you are thinking about larger furniture items, think about upcycling, rather than recycling. You can always re-upholster an old couch, decide to change the paint on your old cabinet or simply refinish some old table to give it that specific vintage look people are paying thousands to acquire. There is always the possibility to donate your old furniture to charity organizations or neighbours in need. Of course, your municipality is also to be asked if there is furniture recycling provided. If not, let us know, we offer some excellent furniture disposal services.
Light bulbs are very easy to reduce. How? Have you heard of those nifty energy-saving bulbs? They are usually LED, but there are different types of them. For example, the CFL bulbs reduce energy consumption (and generated heat) by 70% and last about 10 (that's right, ten) times longer than the regular ones! If that ain't a deal, I don't know what is. However, to dispose of broken or burnt-out light bulbs, it's best to give them to a recycling facility or a local shop which offers the service. It all depends on where you live.
You will be surprised how many rugs, carpets and mats are thrown away each year. Again, if the carpet isn't completely ruined, you can donate it to a nearby charity. If not, check with your local recycler if they handle these kinds of fabric. Otherwise, again, the rubbish tips are meant for items that can't be recycled. Re-purposing parts of old carpets is a completely legitimate tactic. Need a new car or home mat? Cut up your old carpet!
Step 4: The Office.
Before you go on to recycle your book collection, think twice. Do you have a nearby school or library you can donate it to? Even some hospitals accept such gifts. Books, magazines, it's all paper, so it gets recycled with the other paper products we spoke about in the beginning. Aside from that, have you thought about selling your books? Thrift shops and on-line services like eBay and Amazon are an amazing opportunity to make some pounds on the side.
For regular paper, such as newspapers and old magazines, you can use the regular recycling bin. That's right! No special treatment, no additional work to be useful. The really good part, though, is that there are factories which are completely designed to use recycled paper for their products. Basically all the paper you recycle will be used for paper products again. You give trees a third chance to be useful.
Electronics, namely televisions, printers, computers, tablets, cell phones and all that jazz, can be recycled in two ways. The first way to be useful is to donate your old (still working) tech products. And if not, why not putting them up for sale on-line? There is an old proverb which is perfectly valid in this case - "One man's wine barrel bottom is another man's shield" - Unknown wise person. Something not many people know is that schools sometimes look for old electronic devices. And, you can always get your gadgets to the local recycling centre. Or just call our IT disposal service and we will do it for you.
Printer cartridges are mainly accepted in your local printer stores. You may (or may not) receive a small sum back for your cartridge, too! A small number of manufacturers also offer pretty nifty envelopes with pre-paid postage. That's right, you can send them the cartridge back after it's been used up! Some people are just great.
Batteries nowadays are mostly rechargeable or non-removable. I know, we live in the future already! But still, sometimes we use regular batteries. Clocks, flash lights, other small items. The good thing about alkaline batteries is that if the have been produced after 1994, they can go to the rubbish tip. However, the other types, like lithium and rechargeable ones should be recycled. Same goes for the car batteries. They contain toxic materials and need to be disposed of with responsibility in mind. There are certain companies and waste disposal centres that handle all types of batteries. You should go there too!
Step 5: The Bedroom.
The first thing to recycle in the bedroom are the cloth hangers. Little did we all know, they are extremely recyclable! You can give them either to a local dry cleaner, or to a recycling centre that accepts scrap metal. Ta-dah! Your hangers will become like new again.
There are some charities that accept old mattresses. To be recycled, they usually have to be taken apart and the materials sorted out beforehand. If an organization accepts mattresses, it will usually also accept box springs. Two birds with one stone. If this is not applicable, to the landfill t is! Yet again, if you don't have time for this, mattress disposal companies are a great alternative. They will make sure everything gets recycled.
Clothes and shoes are usually given away to charities or second-hand shops. The most important part when doing this is to make sure the clothing is undamaged, clean and preferably dry. You can also donate them to local shelters! What would be better to make somebody's day? However, if the clothes are damaged or, in other ways, unusable, then there are certain stores which regularly send damaged clothing for recycling. Just remember that pretty much anything can be re-used.
If you are thinking of pillows, towels, blankets or sheets, keep in mind that, since they are also made of cloth, they are very similar to clothes in terms of recycling. Again, usable, undamaged blankets can be donated to various religious organizations, second-hand shops or shelters. The sad news is that pillows are not recyclable. And they are not accepted anywhere due to hygienic reasons. But if you have any spare old blankets and want to help, you can contact an animal shelter in your area! Most of them are used to provide great bedding for the animals.
Step 6: Credit and Thank You
Cheers and thank you for reading! I hope this will be helpful for you in some way or another. And if you ever wonder if you want to take a 10 minute detour to leave some items for recycling or not, remember you are not only helping yourself. You are also keeping your neighbourhood clean, providing recycled material for various items and, of course, reducing the landfill mass. Which is quite a bit, taken together!
Credit for the pictures goes to various flckr photographs - /mhillier/, /opera-nut/, Estorweb, /jamiemc/ and /joebehr/.