Read these 13 tips about recycling to learn what to do with broken glass, food scraps, intimates and electronics.
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How do you recycle? It seems like such a simple thing to do. Place items like plastic packaging or paper into a recycling bin and they will be swept away to be made into new items again. But the reality is more nuanced than that. Not all plastics are created equal and can be recycled. Items that are plastic and paper have to be separated. And what do you do about clothing that is beyond repair? While most of us have never entertained the thought of having a formal education about recycling, brushing up on recycling tips plays an important role in reducing landfill waste and greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2018 Americans generated 292.4 million tons of trash but only recycled or composted 32.1%. The following year it was reported that landfills are the nation’s largest producer of the greenhouse gas methane. Some items in landfills were put into recycling bins by consumers without realizing that they cannot be recycled and contaminate other items that could otherwise be recycled. Other times, the reverse is true. Recyclable items are put into landfills. Wanting to recycle is the first step. Learning how to properly recycle can effectively reduce landfill waste and the problems associated with it. Below, we’ve rounded up thirteen tips about recycling from the Environmental Protection Agency and other local government websites to help you to recycle better.
1. Buy to Reuse
Recycling doesn’t just have to be about putting items into a blue bin when you’re finished with it. Look for items that help to reduce waste by being reusable- water bottles, cloth napkins, cotton tote bags, cotton rounds are just a few of the reusable swaps you can buy for items that last longer than their conventional counterparts.
2. Give. Donate. Swap
From home decor to clothing, there are a plethora of online and local resources where you can donate your unwanted items. Drop off an old chair at Goodwill store. Or, visit retailers like Madewell who will recycle old denim for you.
3. Try fixing items first
Mend a button or a seam to give clothing a second chance. If you don’t have the skills to do so, ask your local dry cleaners to do it for you. Take a vacuum cleaner or even your electronics to be fixed before tossing these items onto the curb.
4. Learn what your city can and can’t recycle
Did you know that certain types of plastic aren’t recyclable? Depending on the plastic used in the containers, cups, and even plastic bags your municipality may or not be able to recycle them. Take a few minutes to read the recycling tips from your area to learn what you can and can’t recycle and where to send difficult-to-recycle items.
5. Clean out containers first
Items that you recycle don’t have to be sparkling clean, but giving them a quick rinse is one recycling tip that will ensure that cans, bottles, tins, and other items will be recycled instead of incinerated. Be sure to allow items to dry first too. And, this applies to plastic takeout containers too. Plastic items with food debris cannot be recycled.
6. Recycle paper and cardboard
Did you know that most of the items that you receive in the mail and packaging can be recycled? Newspapers, pizza boxes, envelopes (without plastic windows), and cardboard containers can all be placed in the recycling bin. Even paper egg cartons and shoe boxes can be recycled too.
7. Compost wine corks
The most sustainable way to dispose of corks isn’t to recycle them with a glass wine bottle. As a biodegradable material, you can compost them.
8. Compost bio-plastics too
Plastics that are bio or plant-based are biodegradable and therefore should be composted. These items are usually made from natural materials like sugar, corn, or kelp. So, if a packaging label lists the material as bioplastic, be sure to compost.
9. Put a recycling bin in your bathroom
Only 1 out of 5 Americans consistently recycle bathroom items. While most Americans recycle items in their kitchen, we forget about recycling items from our bathrooms. From shampoo bottles to toothbrushes and packaging, there are a lot of items that you can recycle instead of turning into landfill waste. If you forget to recycle, put a mini recycling bin in your bathroom as a reminder. Also, if you have hard-to-recycle items, companies like L’Occitane will recycle beauty and skin care products for you.
10. Trade in your electronics
A lot of electronic retailers will now pay you in cash or credit towards future products if you bring in your old laptop, cell phone or other electronics. You can also use services from groups like Call2Recycle that will recycle batteries and other electronics that stores might not take.
11. Don’t throw out clothing or intimates
If your clothing items are beyond repair or not in a condition to be donated, don’t throw them away. Instead, recycle them with companies like For Days which will recycle your old clothing, or Knickey which will recycle intimates for you.
12. Know that broken glass is not recyclable
Glass is recyclable… as long as it is not broken. The shards can harm workers and equipment. Unfortunately, that means that glass pieces will have to go into the trash bin.
13. Compost food and kitchen scraps
Food can’t be recycled. But, it can be composted. Avoid putting kitchen scraps (from raw fruits, herbs, and veggies) into the recycling or trash bin. Food rotting in landfills is mixed with other waste that releases methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than CO2, as it decomposes. The best method to ‘recycle’ food and reduce waste is to compost. Save your food scraps for a local company that composts food waste for you or start a compost in your personal garden.