written by: AngelaC•edited by: BStone•updated: 6/15/2010
If you are trying to live green, most likely you recycle. However, it may be surprising to learn how many common items still end up in landfills. This list identifies the top five things we can do to recycle and ways to encourage recycling at home, work and in the community.
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Keeping our planet healthy for today and for future generations is the goal of green living. This list of the top five things we can do to recycle will help you be aware of the many different ways you can help the environment through recycling.
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1. Identify and Organize Household Recyclables and Contact Your Local Recycling Center
Many cities now offer curbside recycling pick up services. Local waste management provides the bins and regularly stops by to pick up your household recyclables. In addition, they provide specific instructions on what can be included. Contacting your local recycling center is a great way to stay conscious of which items you purchase that can be recycled rather than thrown away. When making purchase, you want to look for items that can be recycled as well as items that contain a larger percentage of post-consumer content. In addition, most household food waste can be composted. With a little effort, you may have nothing left heading towards a landfill!
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2. Reuse and Repurpose Many Household Items
Many household items can be reused and repurposed to extend their lifetime of use before you recycle them. Items that you thought were headed for the recycle or compost pile can actually be used again. Coffee grounds are great for compost, but there are other ways you can recycle them as well. For example, they are a wonderful natural fertilizer or refrigerator deodorizer. The need for new socks and sheets in many busy households seems to be never ending. No sooner have you bought new ones, then a tear or hole appears. Old socks and pantyhose make great cleaning rags or polishing cloths, and torn sheets can be hemmed into new pillowcases or dishtowels.
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3. Take Your Hard-To-Recycle Items to Designated Drop Off Locations
There are several types of household items that many recycling centers do not take, but this does not mean they should be thrown in the garbage. For example, as the use of energy efficient light bulbs increases, the disposal of the old bulbs is becoming a bigger issue. CFL bulbs contain mercury, and when the old bulb is tossed in a garbage truck or landfill it may break, thereby releasing the mercury within and contaminating the environment. The EPA offers information about mercury-containing light bulb lamp recycling, and some states even mandate it.
Americans buy over 3 billion dry-cell batteries annually according to the EPA, and nearly the same amount ends up in our landfills. Once in a landfill, the toxic metals in these batteries can leak into the soil and groundwater. Instead, store your batteries and drop them off at a designated recycling location. For rechargeable batteries, like the ones found in laptops, cellphones and digital cameras, the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation, a non-profit organization backed by battery manufacturers, offers lists of many locations to drop off those batteries for recycling.
We go through countless pairs of athletic shoes, and fortunately there are many resources to recycle them. The rubber on the soles of sneakers can be broken down and recycled into a variety of products, including, athletic flooring, playground and track surfaces and even some consumer products. The foam and upper fabric can recycled into indoor and/or outside sports courts. The Nike Reuse a Shoe program is nationwide and will accept shoes of all conditions. Nike turns the shoes into a recycled product known as Nike Grind. This product is then used to make tracks, indoor basketball courts, fields, and playgrounds.
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4. Organize eCycling and Paper Recycling at the Office
On average, each business office generates about 1.5 pounds of waste paper per employee each workday and the EPA estimates that 41 percent of solid waste is paper. Many recycling centers offer office paper pick up recycling. To promote recycling in your office, put recycling bins in convenient well-traveled areas and by each desk, if possible. Label the bins clearly and spread the word. Office electronic waste, such as desktop computers, laptops, monitors, cell phones, and other e-waste is also becoming a bigger issue that needs to be dealt with. Recycling electronics or eCycling reduces environmental emissions and greenhouse gases, conserves resources such as precious metals and copper, and saves materials, like engineered plastics. The EPA’s Plug-In To eCycling Partners lists numerous companies that will collect and recycle used electronics in the US.
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5. Teach and Encourage Others to Recycle
As the Earth’s natural resources become depleted, the urgency of increasing the amount recycling becomes imperative. Talk to friends, family, coworkers and everyone in your community! Set an example and show them how to easily incorporate recycling into their day to day lives. Remind everyone about all the simple things we can do to recycle and how important it is to keep the environment clean and healthy.