Written by Barry Monheit, CEO, Earth911, Inc.
Growing up in the ‘60s, the closest thing we had to recycling was when I got my cousin Steve’s hand-me-down clothing. Then, as time went by, we used to separate our old newspapers and the maintenance man would come by and collect them. He probably received a few bucks for his trouble.
When we moved to Arizona about 10 years ago, our town, which did not have curbside collection, suggested that, on a voluntary basis, residents should have a separate recycling trash can. There was little information disseminated about exactly what you should and shouldn’t put in this green-colored can. There was also little follow-up information. Things have changed a bit today, but we have a long way to go.
Since I joined Earth911, Inc. in June 2011, I have become obsessed with recycling. My friends say I have become the trash police. I always tried to do the right thing before, but I have learned a lot and want to share a few things with you and leave you with a few tips that have worked for my family.
Recycling is local. There are things I can’t recycle in my town that my friends who live a short distance away recycle daily. Certain things we can recycle have become valuable commodities. For example, an old cell phone or iPhone could be worth up to $200.
Recycling has become an industry unto itself in just a few decades and if we all cooperate a little bit more, over 1 million new jobs will be created in the U.S. in the next 20 years.
This will require better education of the public. Companies like Earth911 and Recyclebank have made it their mission.
Finally, recycling is really not controversial. It is pretty easy to understand that changing the oil in your car and pouring it down the sewer or in the yard could cause some damage to the water supply we all use or that putting old paint cans with toxic material in the ground will create problems over time.
It takes a little effort for people to learn about recycling and a little effort to do it properly. This old dog has learned some new tricks and it really feels good to know that you can make a difference. If you are reading this, you likely want to join me and feel good as well.
5 Tips for Recycling Beginners
1. Keep a battery baggie. I always knew intuitively that something should be done with my used single-use batteries, but didn’t know what. Now, wherever I keep new batteries, I have a baggie and collect the old ones. I take them to a drop-off site when the bag gets full. Many places where you buy new ones will accept your used batteries. Search on Earth911’s recycling directory or use your mobile iRecycle app to find a suitable location
2. Fill a bulb bowl. Light bulbs are also something I knew didn’t belong in the trash. Now my wife has a bowl that we collect them in and we drop them at a collection site we found in the directory.
3. Trash your pizza boxes. If I were a condemned man, my last meal would be pizza. I really thought I was doing the correct thing by placing the box in the recycling bin, since it was cardboard. What I since have learned is that the oil from the pizza makes it not recyclable and in fact will contaminate the entire can.
4. Take the top off your water bottles before you recycle them. My town and about 1600 others require it, as the recycling process for caps is slightly more complicated and may require separate drop-off.
5. Consider setting up a collection site at your place of work. Start with something simple, like batteries. See if your employer will participate. Some companies have started drives that make donations to a favorite charity. I can tell you, as a CEO, it engages your employees in a feel-good project and boosts morale.