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Whole Foods Market’s plastic recycling programs reach 220 stores throughout the U.S. Photo: Whole Foods Market

Time is a precious commodity. There never seems to be enough of it, and whether or not you’re having fun, it often flies by.

When it comes to living a greener lifestyle, time can grow in its significance, as it can sometimes restrict potential greenies from eco-friendly activities.

In fact, 13 percent of respondents from an Earth911.com poll indicated that “time” was the one thing holding them back from becoming more green.

One of the ways to balance a busy lifestyle and your own environmental ambitions is to condense your errands into single locales. The fewer places you need to go, the less time you spend traveling and the more time you have for other tasks.

Recycling is probably a high priority on your own environmentally friendly To-Do’s. However, if certain items that frequently make up your household waste aren’t collected in your curbside program (or if you don’t have a curbside recycling program at all), you may have to make a few extra stops to properly dispose of your trash.

With plastics probably taking the top spot on your “Things To Recycle” list, minimizing your trips to recycle these valuable materials is a must. But don’t fret – we’ve got all you need to know about recycling plastics while you’re out-and-about. Here are the plastics recycling programs for retailers across the country.

Walmart

What They Accept: Plastic grocery bags; Dry cleaning bags

Out of most national retailers, Walmart continues to be a leader in its sustainable endeavors and exploring new, green avenues. In fact, in 2009,  the company recycled 120 million pounds of plastic in its behind-the-scenes processes (think: shrink wrap from pallets, bottles from employee breakrooms, etc.).

Additionally, the company as a whole has committed to reducing plastic bag waste by 33 percent per store by 2013. While the retailer’s focus at this point in time is making significant cuts to the waste that its operations send to landfills, in the future it looks to help recycle more of the materials that go out its 4300+ doors by helping customers recycle even more beyond plastic bags.

Located at the front of each Target store, the recycling stations offer guests a convenient way to recycle aluminum, glass and plastic beverage containers, plastic bags, MP3 players, cell phones and ink cartridges. Photo: Target

Target

What They Accept: Plastic bottles; Plastic bags

Target’s program is relatively new to the brand but is a great convenience if this is one of your main stops. Materials collected from guests are added to collections that Target also runs through its store operations, which are responsibly processed.

For example, all plastic bags collected for recycling are sold to a vendor who transforms them into composite decking. The program is still too young to know its impact, but Target estimates that its initiatives could eliminate at least 6 million pounds of plastic bags, glass, plastic, aluminum beverage containers and electronics each year.

Whole Foods

What They Accept: Plastic bottles; Plastic #5 (check availability at your local store)

Whole Foods operates under a different model than stores like Target and Walmart, as the company focuses on a decentralized style that emphasizes what works for particular regions or stores. Their efforts are effective though – the retailer currently diverts more than 80 percent of its waste by recycling and composting.

Its main plastic recycling programs reach 220 stores and are operated by two different entities: Preserve Gimme 5 and Greenopolis. In 2009, the Preserve program collected 45,000 pounds of plastics and, so far in 2010, has collected more than 68,000 pounds of material. Through its kiosks across the country, Greenopolis has recycled almost 3.5 million individual items. In the future, both the Preserve and Greenopolis kiosk programs are looking to expand to more WFM locations.

What you can recycle with Preserve “Gimme 5”: Any item made of plastic #5 qualifies, such as yogurt, hummus, margarine and take-out containers. Also, Preserve products (e.g.: toothbrushes, razor handles, tableware, kitchenware) Brita filters and Tom’s of Maine deodorant packaging can be recycled here.

What you can recycle with Greenopolis: Plastic, aluminum and even glass drink containers (glass not available in all locations). You can even earn points towards great rewards by recycling through the Greenopolis system.

Aveda

Bottle caps

What They Accept: Bottle caps made of plastic #5

Aveda’s program started when the company’s founder heard about bottle caps blowing into the ocean and affecting sea life.

Today, all Aveda stores and most Aveda salons collect bottle caps, which are then recycled into packaging for various Aveda products.

The program accepts caps that are made of rigid plastic #5. This includes caps that twist on with a threaded neck (like shampoo, water, soda, milk and other beverage bottles), flip top caps on tubes and food product bottles (such as ketchup and mayonnaise), laundry detergents and some jar lids such as peanut butter.

However, Aveda does not collect pharmaceutical lids and non-rigid lids like those of yogurt, margarine and cottage cheese containers.

The UPS Store & Mail Boxes Etc.

What They Accept: Packing peanuts; Bubble wrap (check availability at your local store)

Many UPS Stores and Mail Boxes Etc. (a subsidiary of UPS) locations collect these often tough-to-recycle items. Packing peanuts can be reused many times in subsequent shipments, and bubble wrap too can help future customers protect their fragile items.

With the idea in mind that these items will be reused, it’s preferable to bring in peanuts and wrap that are still in good condition (resist popping the bubbles!). Make sure to check ahead of time to see if your local store will take these items as well.

Related articles:
20 Green Things In 20 Minutes
Reuse Your Odd Plastic
Debunked Plastic Myths

Earth911 partners with many industries, manufacturers and organizations to support its Recycling Directory, the largest in the nation, which is provided to consumers at no cost. The American Chemistry Council is one of these partners.

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