With more and more attention being paid to preserving natural resources, recycling has become a more mainstream practice in recent years.
Grocery stores offer stations to recycle plastic and paper bags, an increasing number of products boast recycled content, and regional trash collection services take most non-food trash for recycling.
With taking out the trash being a less than glamorous chore to begin with, recycling can be simplified in ways to encourage the whole family to get involved.
According to the National Recycling Coalition, the average American discards more than seven pounds of garbage each day, much of which is recyclable. Landfill space is at a premium, and with today’s technologies for utilizing recycled materials, recycling is a crucial step towards ensuring a healthier planet for future generations.
Perhaps the main roadblock for families that don’t already recycle, say area recycling gurus, are old perceptions that recycling is a hassle.
While some items require special consideration for recycling, a fairly specific list applies in most large cities.
Items that can be recycled run the gamut and seem as plentiful as items that are prohibited at this point. Be sure you are putting them in the correct container. You may need an official barrel and a basket for separate items.
Things to recycle include:
tin cans (test with a magnet)
plastic items number one through seven
glass (no glassware or broken pieces)
paper egg cartons
beverage cases and carriers
envelopes – with and without windows
tubes from toilet paper or paper towels
Non-recyclable items most commonly tossed
into recycle bins include the following:
water bottle lids
pizza boxes contaminated with grease
or leftover food
Styrofoam (other than peanuts which
can be dropped off at transfer station
pet food bags
frozen food boxes
If in doubt, always check with your sanitation station.
Most likely, says Rogue Disposal’s Gary Penning, families not yet recycling don’t realize that early recycling methods requiring sorting and bundling are long gone.
“For the most part, it’s all commingled now,” Penning says. “People can commingle and really you don’t have to take the labels off the cans like you used to or sort anything into different containers. It’s pretty easy to do.”
To get a jump on recycling, figure out how to collect materials and where they can be taken
For homes with curbside trash pickup, get to know your local service provider and request information and checklists on items that can be recycled and in which container they need to be placed.
Most regional services accept everything from newspaper and glass to plastic jugs, cereal and cracker boxes and metal lids.
For homes without curbside pickup, area transfer stations accept, at no cost, a host of recyclable materials from both customers and non-customers. Consider setting up a small area of larger containers outside in which to sort recyclables.
Various areas located inside the home for collecting recyclable materials can encourage the family
“What we do in my house is we just have a little recycling container next to the waste bin under our sink and in the main living area,” Penning says.
“That way, instead of it going in the waste can, it’s just as convenient to throw something into the other bin. When that fills up you take it outside and dump it in the larger container.”
Areas best suited to a recycle area, says Penning, are the kitchen, main living area and home office.
In the kitchen, a bin next to the regular trash can, or under the kitchen sink, can collect food containers while a family room container, such as a decorative basket, would be ideal for collecting discarded magazines, newspapers and scrap paper.
In a home office, junk mail, catalogs and old phone books can be tossed directly into a special bin while an area in the garage can serve to collect used motor oil and cardboard containers.
“Basically have a container anywhere you’re likely to have plenty of things to throw away,” says Jeremiah Johnson of Ashland Sanitary and Recycling. “The easier it is, the more likely it will be used.”
Outside, yard debris can be collected and turned into mulch or sent away.
Taking recycling efforts a step farther, designate a box some place around the home to collect old cell phones and ink cartridges — area schools will often encourage students to collect such items for fundraising.
To discard outdated medicines, check with local pharmacies.
Old electronics can be set aside and recycled at stores that sell similar products while most auto repair places will accept used motor oil to be recycled.
Styrofoam packing peanuts can be kept in a large trash bag. When full, deliver to area shipping stores or transfer stations to be reused.
“I think people are usually surprised at how much they can recycle,” Johnson says. “There aren’t too many things that can’t be reused.”
And that’s a good thing for everyone.