What Can Be Recycled?

Almost anything can be recycled.

Theoretically.

What you yourself will be able to recycle will be highly dependent on what your community recycling center offers. From spray cans and batteries to cooking oil and keys. From glass and paper to yogurt pots and televisions. If your community center offers to take it, you can recycle it.

But you might have to get creative. What our community recycling center accepts is pretty limited. They take the basics: glass, tin cans, aluminum, paper, cardboard and phone books. That’s it. So my family has had to seek out other options. For example, we take old clothes to the charity shop. We donate used furniture to the women’s shelter. I’ve taken old pairs of glasses to a local religious center and old paints have gone to a youth employment charity. All our kitchen scraps and yard waste go into the compost bin out back.

There are a number of items that are not so easy to dispose of. These include motor oil, electronics, batteries, packing peanuts and the like. All of these will require research into who locally will take these items off your hands. You can even recycle cell phones now. For example, if you have an old T-Mobile Blackberry Curve cell phone that you don’t use anymore, there are companies that will buy it and take it off your hands, or you can recycle them in specialized containers for old cell phones.

There are options. Keep that in mind.

Still, remember that if your overall goal is to have a significant reduction in what you send to the landfill, your first task is to reduce consumption. At the core of recycling is the very idea that, we’d rather not toss items into the trash and have them end up filling space in a landfill. So if you can avoid purchasing an item that will contribute to the junk in the landfill, do so. Your second task is to re-use what you can (this is even better than recycling, because there’s no energy wasted in unnecessary processing) and, finally, once you have reduced and reused, you can take what’s left to the recycling center or local charity.

I hate to admit it but I’m one of those people who won’t recycle unless it’s easy. Thank goodness it is easy.

First, you’ll need to find out what your community recycles and how they want you to separate the items. Put in a call to town or city hall and have them direct you to the recycling services department. In some cases you may actually have to call the municipal or county landfill. Some communities have curbside recycling. In others, you’ll need to take the recycling to the center yourself.

Second, if you have the space, place a series of plastic recycling containers near your trash can. Having the right number of bins with the right capacity for your house will make your recycling very efficient.

Be sure to separate your recycling according to what your local recycling center requests from the get-go. Toss the paper in the paper bin, the glass in the glass bin (separate the colors based on what your recycling center requires) and so on. Keep in mind that some recycling centers want white paper separated from newspaper, brown glass separated from clear glass and/or plastics separate by what type of number it has on the bottom of the container. You really don’t want to be digging through a confused heap of recyclables the night before the recycling truck comes.