For many people, recycling participation begins and ends with what goes in the curbside bin. Although food packaging items represent our most frequent forms of waste, they aren’t the only items you can recycle.
With a little extra effort, here are five products you should be recycling.
1. Cell Phones
Fact: Cell phones are the most valuable material that a consumer can recycle for money, more than even aluminum cans. Yet somehow we throw away 350,000 phones per day, not to mention the ones we have laying around the office or garage.
Cell phones are accepted for recycling at any mobile phone store, most electronics retailers and through tons of mail-back programs. It’s even possible your favorite charity accepts them as a fundraiser. You can recycle them for cash, gift cards or credit toward the purchase of a new phone.
If that’s not enough of a reason to recycle cell phones, they are filled with precious metals and circuitry, and one of the easier electronics to disassemble for recycling.
2. Cooking Oil
Fact: Forty-seven percent of sewer overflows in America are caused by grease buildup. When you pour cooking oil down the drain, it hardens and clogs your pipes, creating a plumbing nightmare.
If you fry lots of meat or vegetables, put a coffee can next to the sink and pour any leftover oil in there. Once the can is full, you have plenty of options for where to take your used cooking oil, including community drop-offs (especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas when deep-fried turkeys are common), fire stations and local restaurants, which oftentimes sell their used cooking oil to a recycler and may accept yours (if you kept it free of contaminants like meat).
Cooking oil is usually recycled into biodiesel, a form of renewable energy. This is yet another reason to keep it out of your drains.
3. Latex Paint
Fact: The average house has between 1 and 3 gallons of paint stockpiled, usually in the garage. You may not know that latex (also known as water-based) paint also expires. Luckily, it can be recycled (unlike oil-based paint).
Latex paint is the most commonly collected form of household hazardous waste (HHW), and many cities will offer either a permanent drop-off site or special collection events. (Just be sure to check what’s collected, as some HHW programs specifically exclude latex paint.) This paint can be mixed with other paints and reused, used for graffiti removal or recycled into new paint.
If you live in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont or Washington, D.C., you are in a PaintCare state, which means latex paint can usually be dropped off at paint retailers in addition to HHW programs.
If there are no latex paint recycling options in your area, make sure you don’t pour it down the drain. You want to absorb any remaining paint using newspaper or kitty litter, then recycle the can with the lid removed.
4. Packing Peanuts
Fact: Green packing peanuts are usually made from recycled material, and yellow peanuts are usually made of bioplastic. They are traditionally made of expanded polystyrene (EPS), which is a tricky and expensive material to recycle.
Luckily, EPS has a high reuse market, especially packing peanuts. Most shipping stores will accept your used packing peanuts for reuse. Or, you could reuse the peanuts yourself if you send gifts via mail.
Fact: In America, we throw away 300 million tires per year, basically one per person. Luckily, most of us only get rid of tires when we buy new ones, and the retailer will recycle them for you.
The problem comes if you have scrap tires in your yard that you want to recycle, because in most cases, it’s going to cost you if they aren’t accepted as HHW. But given that 36 states have banned them from landfills, you don’t really have another choice. Simply take them to a tire recycler and pay the requested fee.
Recycled tires have a wide array of uses, from tire-derived fuel to playground equipment to additive for synthetic turf. Plus, tires in a landfill attract rodents and mosquitoes, and if they catch on fire, they produce toxic fumes and are very difficult to extinguish.
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