Items such as poisons, paints, oil, solvents, automotive fluids, cleaners, herbicides and many others must not be dumped into the regular garbage. Water seeps through landfills and toxics end up in the water table. In areas that burn garbage, your toxics may end up in the air you breathe. The best thing to do is use what you buy, buy only what you need.
If you have accumulated toxics, check with your garbage company or local recycling agency -- almost all areas have household toxics drop-off days or locations
Lots of things you'd otherwise throw away can be composted, including wine bottle corks, cooking oils, certain types of foam packing peanuts, used paper towels, dryer lint, etc. If it is natural, you can probably compost it without trouble!
The Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (Call to Recycle) is an industry funded group promoting battery recycling. Manufacturers pay a fee to use the logo shown to the right, and to support the costs of the eventual collection of the batteries they sell.
For a nearby drop-off location:
- Call 1-800-8BATTERY.
- Visit the RBRC drop of location finder.
- Try your local Radio Shack store.
Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd), Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH), Lithium Ion (Li-ion), and Small Sealed Lead (Pb) batteries can all be recycled. Several states now prohibit consumers from dumping rechargeable batteries into the normal trash. Nickel-Cadmium rechargeable batteries ("NiCads") contain cadmium, a metal that causes blood and reproductive damage, among other problems. Most of the Cadmium in our waste stream comes from batteries. These batteries pose little hazard in use (the Cadmium is in a stable form), but are a danger in landfills.
Worn-out batteries are often easily replaced. While many batteries are custom shapes (just you so have to buy a special battery) the chemistry inside is identical. A clever repairperson can replace just about any rechargeable battery.
With the invention of "low self discharge" or "precharged" NiMH batteries, single use batteries are all but obsolete. A leading "low discharge" brand is the Sanyo Eneloop, costing less than 3 times that of a typical single use battery. Investing in a "smart" charger is a must for the best battery life. Shop for models with microprocessor control (not a timer), and the ability to charge each battery individually (not two or four at a time). A good comparison and shopping site is www.greenbatteries.com.
Production of R-22 refrigerant is scheduled to be completely phased out by the year 2020. The only R-22 available will be R-22 recycled from appliances being thrown out. This means your R-22 may become more valuable than the cost removal, and in fact there are some programs around the country where recycling of R-22 appliances is free or even earn a small payout. Check with your local electric company or recycling authority.
If you are not using such a program and throwing away an old refrigerator, heat pump or air conditioner please be sure the CFC's are drained out and recycled first. Use only a hauler who will perform this important service -- call and ask before you let them take your old equipment away. Before having your car's air conditioner serviced, ask what the shop does with the freon. Never allow a leaking refrigeration system to be recharged.
A number of international treaties, federal and state laws govern the use of CFC's. Handlers of refrigeration equipment can get information on laws and recycling equipment from AHRI.
It is important to know what you are buying in a paper product, for that reason virtually all paper products should be marked with the percentage and type of recycled content, as above (C). Just saying "recycled paper" is not enough. "Recycled paper" could mean anything from 100% true recycled paper to 1% re-manufactured ends of large paper rolls. "Post-consumer" means the paper that you and I return to recycling centers. From a recycling point of view, the more "post-consumer" paper the better. Soybean-based inks are gaining favor as a renewable alternative to harsh and toxic petrochemical inks.
White Office Paper
One of the highest grades of paper is white office paper. Acceptable are clean white sheets from the likes of laser printers and copy machines. Colored, contaminated, or lower grade paper is not acceptable. The wrappers the paper comes in are of lower grade, and not acceptable. Staples are OK. White office paper may be downgraded, and recycled with mixed paper.
In areas that don't take cardboard from consumers, one can often drop boxes off at a supermarket or other high volume business. Contaminated cardboard, like greasy pizza boxes, is not acceptable. In some areas cardboard must be free of tape, but staples are always OK.
Newspaper is widely available and of uniform consistency, which makes it valuable. The entire newspaper including inserts acceptable, except for things like plastic, product samples and rubber bands. Newspapers may be stuffed in large brown grocery sacks, or tied with natural-fiber twine. Other brown paper bags may be mixed with newspaper.
Some phone books are made with a special glue that breaks down in water, while other phone books use a glue that interferes with recycling. Printed in your phone book should be information on the source and type of paper used, the nature of the binding, and where locally phone books can be recycled (C). Note that many phone companies continue to use virgin rain forest to produce directories. In many communities phone books are only accepted during the time new directories are distributed.
Waxed cartons (Milk, juice)
Milk cartons are plastic laminated inside, even if they don't have a plastic spout. (C).
Mixed paper is a catch-all for types of paper not specifically mentioned above. Everything you can imagine from magazines to packaging is acceptable. The paper must still be clean, dry, and free of food, most plastic, wax, and other contamination. Staples are OK.
Remove plastic wrap, stickers, product samples, and those pointless "membership" cards, and most junk mail can be recycled as mixed paper. Due to new technology, plastic window envelopes and staples are generally OK.
Paper that can't be recycled
Paper that can't be recycled as normal "mixed paper" includes: food contaminated paper, waxed paper, waxed cardboard milk & juice containers, oil soaked paper, carbon paper, sanitary products or tissues, thermal fax paper, stickers and plastic laminated paper such as fast food wrappers, juice boxes, and pet food bags.
Paper with any sort of contamination or plastic layers can't be recycled. Plastic laminated paper is bad for recycling plants; such paper should be clearly marked (A).
The square boxes used for liquids are called "Aseptics", the most common brand of which is "Tetra Pak". Aseptics are made from complex layers of plastic, metal and paper. The aseptic industry has spent millions in public education on the issue of aseptic recycling, including distribution of classroom guides and posters like "Drink Boxes are as Good on the Outside as They are on the Inside" and "A Day in the Life of a Drink Box".
According to the Carton Council 45% of U.S. households can now recycle cartons through their curbside recycling programs and other recycling venues.
Go to recyclecartons.com to see if cartons are recycled in your community. Also, Coca-Cola maintains a list of aseptic recyclers, call 1-800-888-6488 for information.
There have been marketing experiments with plastic and steel cans that look exactly like aluminum cans. Recycling plants have been damaged by these fakes. The distinctive shape of an aluminum beverage can must be reserved for aluminum beverage cans only (C).
It is no longer necessary to remove labels for recycling. To save water, clean only enough to prevent odors. Unlike with plastics, the high temperature of glass and metal processing deals easily with contamination.
Scrap aluminum is accepted in many places. Other metals are rarely accepted.
|Coated Cardboard Food Canisters||
Paper and foil mixtures, such as those used for prefabricated potato chips, are generally not val...
|Think Outside the Bottle||
In the 1970's nobody drank water out of single use bottles. Today single use bottles predominate:...
|Disposing of household toxics||
Individuals tend to be very sloppy when it comes to handling toxic materials in the home. Individ...
|Recycling organic matter (compost)||
It may seem strange to see the word compost on a recycling page, but compost is just recycled pla...
|Waste from computer printers||
Most printer cartridges are easily recycled, refilled or re-built. But printer vendors sell the p...
|Recycling Motor Oil, Tires and Car Batteries||
All three of these products are big environmental problems, but all three are easily recycled.Use...
|Recycling Rechargeable Batteries (other than car batteries)||
Rechargeable batteries are commonly used in portable telephones, computers, power tools, shavers,...
|Recycling Single Use Batteries (Alkaline, Heavy Duty)||
Once recommended for the trash, increasingly these batteries are collected. Not that they are act...
|Recycling old refrigerators, air conditioners, and heat pumps||
Most older refrigeration equipment contains freon, a chemical know as a Chlorinated Fluorocarbon ...
Most types of paper can be recycled. Newspapers have been recycled profitably for decades, and re...
|Recycling Cartons (Drink boxes, soy-milk containers)||
There are two types of cartons: Aseptic and Refrigerated Cartons. Refrigerated cartons are the ...
|Recycling Glass, Steel, and Aluminum Cans and Foil||
Glass, steel (or "tin") and aluminum are easy to recognize and recycle. For clarity, a recycling ...
Plastic has long been a problem when it comes to recycling. But with huge volumes of the materia...