As far as recycling goes, it seems like a pretty straightforward process from a residential standpoint: throw your recyclables into the approriate bin and take that bin to the curb. And in many ways, it can be that simple. However, there are tons of ways to make the recycling process even easier or reuse some of the items your curbside program won’t take. Following are tips for easier recycling that tend to fly under the radar.
The ultimate in recycling will always be donation. In 2013, Americans generated 12.4 million tons of clothing-based textiles
. Make sure it doesn’t end up in a landfill by donating your clothing to clothing drives or reuse stores. You can also look into giving to local charities such as Goodwill, putting your stuff up on Craigslist’s Free Stuff section or taking advantage of sites like freecycle.org
. You may even be able to use your donations as a tax write-off if you get a donation receipt and properly estimate the value of your donated clothing.
Take advantage of take-back programs
When you’re done with that cell phone or TV, keep in mind manufacturer take-back programs. Those devices will either be scrapped down and recycled or sent off to be refurbished and reused, if the device still works. You can find a good list of take-back programs here
Remember the animals
When you have old towels and bedding to get rid of, remember to donate to your local humane society. Many will take old textiles to use as bedding, cage liners and rags. While you’re at it, many shelters will also take used dog toys and leashes.
Start a compost pile
Take advantage of nature’s natural recycling process. Compost piles are easy to maintain once you get into the groove with them, and you’ll have plenty of nutrient-rich fertilizer for the garden. You can learn more about composting here
Keep an eye on your ink
When your ink cartridges run out, remember to recycle them. Office supply stores and printer manufacturers are good sources for recycling your cartridges.
Another option is to invest in printers that turn out more pages per cartridge, cutting down the constant cartridge recycling drastically. Some newer printer models on the market claim to run for years without going dry
Use both sides of the paper
This is a common recycling tactic, but the little bit of extra effort required makes it easy to forget. It’s easy to print on both sides of the paper, as many printers have a two-sided printing option. Otherwise, use old paper as scrap paper for notes or scribble/coloring paper for children.
Wash jars and containers
Jars and containers usually need to be washed out before you can recycle them. Some jars are such a pain to clean (like peanut butter jars) that it can be tempting to just throw them in the garbage and be done with it, rationalizing that the container is still mostly food anyway. If you’re feeling lazy, a good tip is to just throw those containers in the dishwasher. Just remember: dishwasher before garbage can.
Keep your plastic bags
This is a super easy one. Just keep your plastic bags from shopping in a closet. You can reuse those bags as garbage can liners, poo bags for pet walks or anything else you can think of. Some stores will even take back plastic bags if you end up with too many of them.
Look for recycled products
To really close the loop, you’ll want to find products that are made from recycled materials in the first place. They’re a little trickier to find, but they’re out there. The EPA has a good resource for finding recycled products here
You’d also be surprised about what you can find made from recycled materials: everything from messenger bags to workout shorts
Recycle your rainwater
Remember to keep a rain barrel so you’ll have reusable rainwater on hand. Rather than letting all that water get washed down the gutter or flood your yard, you can use rainwater to water your plants during the dryer weeks. You can usually find a good rain barrel for under $100, and once it’s installed, it sits collecting water for you.
Remember the small bins
Make sure to have small recycling bins placed throughout the home or office. That will make it easier to remember to recycle, and then you can just throw the small bins into a larger one. You can also keep small bags or recycling cans in your car to help you remember to recycle while you’re guzzling soda on the road.
Find inventive uses for paper
Used paper products can be incredibly versatile. The Sunday comics are a humorous take on gift wrap, magazines can be used in collages, newspaper can be used for papier-mâché projects, old newsletters can line animal cages and most paper can be used to start bonfires, to name a few uses. There’s simply no excuse for throwing away paper products.
Recycle your seeds
If you are a gardener, make sure to save some seeds from your seeded plants to plant next year. You won’t have to go out and purchase more, which have to be packaged and shipped to store, taking up resources. There’s a good resource for saving seeds here
Give your used items to artists
Artists are always on the lookout for used materials to turn into their next creation. You could look into artist co-ops, local art clubs or any local artist you know who is into upcycling. Even your local school could need items like used newspaper for papier-mâché craft projects.
Get creative when reusing all your old items
Honestly, everything can be reused if you’re creative enough. Columbia University
listed some reuses for common household items: old cards can become postcards by cutting out the front panel, soda bottles can be made into a funnel by cutting the bottom off, hand soap dispensers can dispense laundry detergent (we use ours as a superior spray bottle for our dog’s anti-plaque mouth spray, once rinsed thoroughly), old fabric softener sheets make good deodorizer sheets in drawers, and that’s just to name a few. In short, have fun with your used items.