Since recycling has become an integral part of our daily lives, we all want to pitch in. Some of us painstakingly separate our trash so that everything that can be repurposed finds itself in that blue or green bin. Some of us have broken the nasty habit of shooting hoops to the waste bin with balled up, discarded pieces of paper in favor of recycling them. Or you may simply deposit discarded plastic bottles in the appropriate receptacle so they don’t end up an ancient relic at the the bottom of a landfill. Whatever your method, whatever your commitment, here are six items you may have been sending to the trash pile that could be recycled instead!
You know you can recycle batteries, you know you’re supposed to recycle batteries, but you have to take them to specific collection places. Why? It may surprise you to know that most batteries are not only 100% recyclable, but that most of the materials collected in the recycling process are then reused to make – you guessed it, more batteries. In some cases, the recycling process is directly offset financially by the selling and redistribution of raw materials collected through recycling. This is without mentioning that most batteries contain some kind of chemical compound or acid and definitely should not be left in a landfill in a solid state to decay. So the next time you can’t be bothered to collect and recycle your used batteries – remember, they have a second life, a sustainable existence in a delicate ecosystem that requires your hand to keep it moving. Keep the flow of energy, positive and sometimes negative, by taking them to a battery disposal facility for recycling.
2. Organic food waste
You may overhear people talking about it, you may have even done it yourself. No need to be ashamed, composting is perfectly normal. In fact, it’s downright responsible of you. Many people don’t know that the greenhouse gases created by discarded food waste that originate in landfills can be significantly reduced by simply repurposing food scraps. That’s not to say every uneaten pizza crust or orange peel has value, but decomposable food items added to a compost pile can significantly reduce your own environmental footprint.
Yep, THAT styrofoam. Polystyrene, the source of porous coffee cups, packing peanuts and to-go food containers, the material that almost went extinct (not really because it doesn’t biodegrade) years ago because it was branded wasteful and completely unsustainable; turns out, it’s recyclable. In fact, dependent upon where you live, it may already be a part of your municipal recycling program. Your local recycling program may be able to process plastic #6 – that’s the recycling code for polystyrene and styrofoam – keeping that ocean of packing peanuts from drowning your local landfill.
Even after you’ve completely changed the color scheme of your house, painstakingly selecting that perfect shade of gray or beige, you may have a couple of cans wasting away in a forgotten corner of your storage area. A voice in the back of your head told you that one day you may want to do a touchup or a repaint and you’ve since forgotten all about it. Though it can go in household trash if the paint is completely dried up, certain varieties of latex-based house paint can be recycled. Many paint stores and even some municipal facilities called household hazardous waste disposal sites will accept those neglected pigments and turn them back into reusable paint. Or you can donate the paint to a non-profit organization or community organization in need.
They served you diligently in your car, on your bike, maybe even on your baby stroller or wheelchair, and now the time has come for them to join the big tire fire in the sky, right? Not necessarily. While it’s true upcycling to “tire derived fuel” of some tires means they’re used as incendiary fuel for kilns or other industrial heating devices, they can also be turned into things like playground materials, sneaker soles and synthetic turf, finding a second life as useful as the first. “Retirement” takes on a whole new meaning, and a whole new purpose.
6. Demolition Debris
The next time you start a home improvement project, you may not need to pay to dispose of all that discarded drywall, brick and concrete in one of those costly trash bins. Depending on where you live, your city may provide a local facility where you can take all these materials to be reclaimed, reprocessed and reused.