We all know that recycling is the new mantra and that it's principally the right thing to do. Yeah, yeah, the three R's, save the earth's resources, and all that stuff! But seriously, how many of us really do it? Chances are that not many hands went up! But almost everything that's labeled as trash has some recycle value, and it's up to us to find out how a discarded item can be reused or recycled so that it doesn't end up as garbage in a landfill and create an environmental or health hazard.
Most metal or electronic items contain harmful chemicals and metallic compounds such as lead and mercury, some of which can be volatile or explosive in nature and leach into the groundwater, contaminating water bodies, which will eventually affect plant and animal life and can cause birth defects and hormonal disruptions. Toxic waste can also emit unpleasant odors which may result in respiratory and eye problems and air pollution.
Not sure how to dispose of some items? Here's a list of common items as well some you probably never thought to recycle to help you out!
Aluminum Cans: If you're family guzzles soda then you'll amass soda cans in no time. Collect as much as you can fit in your car, and take them to a scrap recycling yard. For instance, SIMS Metal Management recycling centers all over the country accept all kinds of metal scrap. Or look up the yellow pages to find out more about your local scrap yard.
Alkaline Batteries: These contain harmful chemicals that may present serious danger if not recycled. Find out about hazardous waste disposal services in your town to safely dispose them.
Bikes: If you don't use it, then lose it! Haul them off to a recycling facility or donate them to the International Bicycle Fund, an organization that takes in old bikes with a view to donate them or recycle old parts.
Books: Books can usually be recycled with the rest of paper items or donated to libraries and foster homes where they can be used by the less fortunate.Read more about our various books and e-books!
Computers: Another device that bites the dust all too soon thanks to sleeker PCs and laptops coming out every day. Don't just dump it as trash; haul it off to an electronic recycling facility if you no longer need it.
Cell phones: Ah! These ubiquitous devices are rendered obsolete every few months with newer versions appearing in the market. Sell your old phones as electronic scrap or look up CellforCash. Just make sure you wipe off any data on your device before you recycle it – or you could end up as a victim of identity theft! The same goes for computers, so be careful!
DVDs: Almost every home has a stack of old DVDs collecting dust. Check out Zunafish where you can exchange your old DVDs for a new set from other people. If it's broken, it should be recycled as electronic waste.
Dishwashers: Haul it to the recycling facility. Most places will accept it as electronic waste.
Eyeglasses: If the frame is metal and no longer usable, recycle it as part of scrap metal.
Electric Tools: Drain any fluids the appliance may contain, clean the metal and take it to a metal recycling facility.
Food processors: Most food processors contain 50% metal, most of which is steel, so they can be recycled at any scrap metal recycling center.
Fax machines: Fax machines can contain dangerous electronic waste; contact the local electronic recycling center.
Glass bottles: Curbside recycling is often the best way to recycle your glass bottles. Or reuse them in your kitchen to store oil, ketchup, and liquid soap.
Glue containers: Recycle these at the local household waste collection programs. Or check out Elmer's Glue who run glue recycling programs in schools for glue sticks and glue containers.
Hangers: If they're metal, toss them in the metal scrap bin. If they're plastic, find out if they can be recycled. Or donate them to a laundromat that is always in need of them!
Holiday cards: You can recycle them with other paper items.
iPods: Apple has a recycling program in place where you can trade in your old iPods and even receive a discount on the purchase of a new iPod!
Ink jet cartridges: Stores like Office Depot accept printer cartridges for recycling. If that's not a viable option, take it to the scrap recycling facility in town.
Juice boxes: Most curbside recycling programs accept juice boxes and cartons. Earth911 has some great info on how to recycle juice boxes.
Junk mail: Recycle it along with all your paper, or get creative and use the colored paper to make collages and line up the racks and shelves in your cabinets to increase the life of your belongings.
Kitchen Tiles: Recycle your leftover kitchen tiles by creating mosaic patterns and using them to spruce up tabletops. Smaller tiles can be used as coasters if you decorate them with color.
Keys: These are mostly metal, and will be readily accepted at a scrap recycling facility.
Leaves: Buy a compost bin, add all leaves to it, and use the compost as fertilizer when it's ready!
Leaf blower: Take it down to the scrap yard, but not before you have drained off any liquids it might have, especially if it was gas-powered.
Musical Instruments: They contain a lot of metal which a scrap dealer will be happy to take in. You can also donate them to your school district if they're in good condition.
Mattresses and box springs: The best way to recycle them is to sell them in a yard sale or donate them to a shelter. Some recycling centers may accept them because they contain metal wire, paper, and cloth.
Newspapers: Use them to stuff boxes while moving, to make papier mache, or to clean glass windows and doors and impart them a squeaky clean shine!
Nursery pots: These can be recycled at curbside recycling centers. Or you can contact local nurseries to see if they accept old nursery pots.
Oil filter: Drain the filter of oil and hand it over to the local recycling center. You can also find out if lube businesses in your area accept the oil for recycling so keep that option in mind too.
Office mail: Almost everything can be recycled as paper, even FedEx envelopes.
Paint: Find out if your city has paint recycling programs. Paint contains dangerous chemicals so don't dispose it carelessly.
Pizza boxes: Pizza boxes sans the cheese and bread sticking to them can be recycled as corrugated cardboard.
Quiche pan: This can be traded as metal scrap along with other pots and pans made of steel or copper.
Quilts: Thrift stores and shelters for the homeless will happily accept quilts. Or dispose of it as regular solid waste.
Refrigerators: Pick them up and take it down to the scrap recycling facility!
Radiators: Clean them up and take it to a car recycling center or a salvage yard.
Shoes: Soles4Souls is an organization that collects old and used shoes and donates them to people in need.
Stereos: These are usually accepted by local scrap yards.
Tires: Auto dealers may buy old tires, or you can use them as swings in your backyard! The rims can also be sold as metal scrap.
TV: Off it goes to the scrap recycling center!Read more about the link between lung cancer and TV
Used clothes: Donate them to homeless shelters, or use them to make curtains, cloth bags, and door mats.
Umbrellas: If the frame is metal, remove the fabric and sell it as scrap metal.
Vehicles: These should be handed over to facilities which accept car bodies. Any spare parts that are in good condition are usually dismantled and the vehicle body then crushed and recycled as scrap metal.
Vacuum cleaners: They're usually recycled as electronic waste so take them down to the scrap yard.
Wheelchairs: Consider donating them to the Wheelchair Foundation. Or remove any nonmetallic parts and recycle the remaining as scrap metal.
Washers: These are usually recycled as electronic scrap, but if they're still usable, donate them to shelters or thrift stores.
X-Ray films: Recycling X-ray films recovers silver, a precious metal that is worth quite a bit in the recycling market.
Xmas lights: Head to your nearest Home Depot to trade in your old Xmas lights and get a discount when you buy new LED lights!
Yogurt cups: Curbside recycling centers will usually accept them.
Yard debris: This includes grass clippings, fallen leaves, weeds, tree and shrub pruning, and other woody material found in your yard or garden. Composting them is the best way to recycle this trash and avoid increasing your garbage.
Ziploc plastic bags: Ziploc offers a recycling program for these extremely handy bags which are found in virtually every American home.
Zip drives: Zip drives and floppy drives can be recycled as electronic waste.
Recycling is truly the need of the hour – it keeps the planet cleaner, ensuring a better future for the generations to come. A lot of items we use every day, such as motor oil, antifreeze, paints, Styrofoam cups, batteries, and a number of others should NEVER be thrown in the trash because they contain harmful elements that pose a serious threat to nature. RECYCLE them. If you aren't sure how, contact your local recycling facility for how to get rid of it. Soiled diapers, CFLs (light bulbs), greasy pizza boxes, medical waste, and aerosol cans are items that shouldn't be recycled because they're either labeled as toxic/hazardous or it's not commercially viable to recycle them. But hey, don't toss them away mindlessly! Your local recycling authority should have the final say on how to dispose/recycle such items.
Of course, one of the best ways to recycle is to find new uses for your old things. Check out this great video below for some inspiration:
(This video first appeared on Hooplaha.com)
It's your planet so who else but you are responsible for it? If we don't take steps today, who knows what the earth will look like a few decades from now! Take ownership and commit to recycling. What other items can you think of that can be included on this list as a recyclable?
Photo Credit: Auntie P