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 "right" environmental solution is to sell new cartridges with a postage paid mailer for returning the old one. Some forward-thinking companies, such as Hewlett-Packard, have been known to do this, especially for laser printers (A). Sometimes you can find free envelopes for donating cartridges to a refiller, but don't bother with refill kits. They may save money, but they are messy, and you use as much plastic as a new cartridge.
To make a difference, buy recycled paper for your printer (because of the fine grain, it can look better than regular sliced trees). Grab piles of "blank on one side" paper from work, and use the other side. And always buy recycled. See The Yahoo! Recycled Printer Supplies Listing.
Encourage your company to buy a printer with duplexing (two sided printing), and to hire a company to take away waste paper regularly. WARNING: You may have a recycle bin at your company. Stay a little late one night and ask the cleaning people where it goes. You may be in for a shock.
Used motor oil contains heavy metals and other toxic substances, and is considered hazardous waste. Each year do-it-yourself oil changers improperly dump more oil than the tanker Exxon Valdez spilled into Alaska's Prince William Sound. One quart of oil can kill fish in thousands of gallons of water. Motor oil containers should mention the danger of used oil to humans and the environment (C).
-=NOTE!=-Motor oil must never be dumped in storm drains; storm drains flow *untreated* into rivers, lakes or oceans. Your quart of oil *does* make a difference - don't dump it.
Recycling used motor oil is easy. Typically you used oil into a plastic milk jug and clearly mark it "used motor oil". The following should help you find a location to take the oil. Please drop off oil during regular business hours only:
Call your local garbage, recycling or toxics agency for a referral.
In California - Call 1-800-CLEAN-UP for locations.
Many quick-lube shops take oil (the industry association encourages it):
Jiffy Lube - (Contact any Jiffy Lube Station nationwide).
Valvoline Instant Oil Change Centers - (Contact any Valvoline Station)(Valvoline's First Recovery Service, however, was sold to Safety Klean).
Many auto stores take oil, including Grand Auto, R&S Strauss, Pep-Boys and Wal-Mart. Some states have laws requiring any business that sells oil to take used oil back from consumers.
Antifreeze contaminates motor oil - do not mix the two. If your car has blown a gasket and you are draining the oil, mark it clearly as potentially contaminated and treat it as non-recyclable household waste (see below). Never mix anything with used motor oil. Never place used oil in a container that has contained other chemicals.
Used oil filters are sometimes accepted by the same recyclers who accept oil. Antifreeze and brake fluid may also be accepted.
You normally must pay a fee to dispose of a tire (usually $1-$5), but it is worth it. Improperly disposed tires tend to rise to the top of landfills, breed mosquitoes, transit disease when traded globally, and burn when stacked in large piles.
Old car batteries are the most widely recycled material in the US with a 96% rate of recycling, according to the EPA. Any retailer who sells batteries is required to accept old batteries for recycling, and in fact is likely to pay you for your battery.
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.
The plastic types were defined by the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI):
* Type 1 - PETE Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)
Soda & water containers, some waterproof packaging.
* Type 2 - HDPE High-Density Polyethylene
Milk, detergent & oil bottles. Toys and plastic bags.
* Type 3 - V Vinyl/Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Food wrap, vegetable oil bottles, blister packages.
* Type 4 - LDPE Low-Density Polyethylene
Many plastic bags. Shrink wrap, garment bags.
* Type 5 - PP Polypropylene
Refrigerated containers, some bags, most bottle tops,
some carpets, some food wrap.
* Type 6 - PS Polystyrene
Throwaway utensils, meat packing, protective packing.
* Type 7 - OTHER Usually layered or mixed plastic.
No recycling potential - must be landfilled.
Types 1 and 2 are commonly recycled. Type 4 is sometimes accepted in bag form. Code 7 is for mixed or layered plastic with little recycling potential. You should place in your bin only those types of plastic listed by your local recycling agency! Due to fluctuating market conditions, some colors or shapes may be useless to the recycling agency. Common plastics polycarbonate (PC) and acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) do not have recycling numbers.
The code must be molded into the plastic item. The symbol should be easily visible for sorting purposes. The best symbols are large with a different surface finish than the surrounding plastic. If the container has a matte surface (rough), then the symbol should be smooth, a smooth container should have a rough recycling symbol.
Understand that plastic recycling is really in infancy. The process is messy and inefficient. Numerous problems exist. For example plastic from a "blow mold" (the neck of the bottle is narrower than the body) has a slightly different structure from the exact same plastic used in an "injection mold" (where the opening is the widest part of the product). Because of low processing temperatures plastic is highly vulnerable to contamination by food, labels and different plastics.
Much recycled plastic ends up as low grade plastic lumber.
#6 plastic, by the way, is great for do-it-yourself shrink art (like the commercial product shrinky dinks).
Recycling #5 Open Top Containers (Yogurt, Cottage Cheese, Strawberry Baskets)
For decades, the #5 cups have been the bane of the good home recycler. The cups are hard to avoid buying, and mostly useless for recycling. Many curbside collection programs won't complain if these are placed in a bin, but they won't recycle them either.
Finally there is a good option for some people. Preserve Products offers pickup at select Whole Foods Locations. Simply stack your containers until you have enough to justify the trip.
Other plastic Containers (milk, soap, juice, fresh pasta, water, etc.)
All plastic containers you purchase should be marked with a large and clear recycling code (C). This code must be molded into the plastic and located on the bottom surface of the container. Ideally the entire container should be made of the same plastic to avoid confusion, but often the caps are of a different type. Caps should be separately marked, but few are (B). Note that most caps are NOT of the same type as the bottle they sit on.
Grocery sacks, produce bags, and other packaging
These are great to reuse. Not only do you save a new bag, but your old bags don't smell like chemicals (the 'plastic bag smell' is mostly plasticizer chemicals that outgas from the bags).
Plastic grocery and produce sacks are commonly, but not always, made from plastic types 2 or 4. These bags are often collected in barrels at grocery stores, and usually end up as plastic lumber. Collection is not particularly profitable.
Other Plastic Items
Any product made of a single plastic type should be marked -- after all the product may one day break or be replaced. This includes toys, plastic hangars, trash cans, shelves, baskets, rain ponchos, and many other products (B). Many products, such as compact discs, video tapes, and computer discs, are made from mixed materials which can't be recycled unless first disassembled.
|Think Outside the Bottle||
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|Disposing of household toxics||
Individuals tend to be very sloppy when it come...
|Recycling organic matter (compost)||
It may seem strange to see the word compost on ...
|Waste from computer printers||
Most printer cartridges are easily recycled, re...
|Recycling Motor Oil, Tires and Car Batteries||
All three of these products are big environment...
|Recycling Rechargeable Batteries (other than car batteries)||
Rechargeable batteries are commonly used in por...
|Recycling Single Use Batteries (Alkaline, Heavy Duty)||
Once recommended for the trash, increasingly th...
|Recycling old refrigerators, air conditioners, and heat pumps||
Most older refrigeration equipment contains fre...
Most types of paper can be recycled. Newspapers...
|Recycling Cartons (Drink boxes, soy-milk containers)||
There are two types of cartons: Aseptic and Re...
|Recycling Glass, Steel, and Aluminum Cans and Foil||
Glass, steel (or "tin") and aluminum are easy t...
With a little bit of care much plastic can be r...