Feb 12, 2016

Go All The Way With Recycling

We have been doing a fabulous job recycling. We dutifully bring our newspapers, magazines, bottles, cans and plastic out to the curb every week. But what about all the other stuff? Recycling is job one when it comes to keeping Earth’s environment going for the   future and all the generations to come. 

Have you ever heard the concept of 'low hanging fruit'? Essentially it's doing the simplest or easy things first.  The tried and true example is that rather than climbing a tree for a piece of fruit, grab the one hanging on the lowest branch. There is a lot of 'low-hanging household-waste fruit' since much of what we discard is still a "can-I-or-can’t-I?" when it comes to recycling. Here’s a guide to some recycling mysteries:

  • Drink Boxes and Juice & Milk Cartons. Most are made from 75-85% paperboard plus #4 plastic and/or aluminum foil. These extra layers and coatings are tough to separate, though new processing methods mean many programs finally accept them. 

  • Takeout food containers. From a recycling perspective, these are made from coated paper and much the same as milk cartons. Some programs will accept them if you remove the wire handle and clean them.
  • Wine corks. They are plant materials and can go to yard waste. However, Whole Foods Market has drop off containers.

  • Plastic bottle caps. Most are made from #5 polypropylene plastic, which once was almost never recycled. That’s changing. Some stores like Whole Foods, offer collection bins. Local recycling programs in San Diego also accept them, although some nationwide programs have yet to catch up.

  • Plastic bags and wraps. Whether for shopping or sandwiches, most plastic bags, food wraps, packaging for paper towels, bread, dry cleaning, etc. are made of #4 plastic. Unfortunately they foul recycling machinery so most programs refuse them. Look for bag collection bins at grocers and other retailers who take them all Walmart is a superstar. They take back from any company. Kohls does as well. Please don't use a giant bag or newspaper sleeve for your dog poop. It's not recycling and ends up in a landfill now as an incubator for all of the E. coli and other bacteria. 

  • Bubble wrap. It’s like plastic wrap however the adhesives used to create those fun little bubbles makes it unrecyclable in most locales. Donate yours to a local shipping center for reuse.  Same with shipping peanuts. Postal Annex and Mailboxes Etc. will take them.
  • Polystyrene foam. It can be recycled but usually isn’t because it’s a dirt magnet. Mixing it with other recyclables creates a white mess and contaminates the process. Since most recyclers don’t have cleaning equipment, they don’t accept it. Many cities and some programs have drop-off programs that keep it clean and separated.
  • Pizza boxes. Most recycling programs reject them because of grease and food bits left. Most programs use water for recycling rather than heat, so that grease creates a mess. How to fix it? Take off the parts of cardboard that are greasy. Usually the top and slides are not. They're corrugated cardboard so into the bin they go.

  • Tupperware® and similar containers. Because they’re made from different plastics, food storage container systems were once impossible to recycle. But about a decade ago, companies started labeling them with recycling symbols. If your containers have a symbol your program accepts, put it into your bin. 

  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC is challenging to recycle because it’s a mix of so many different compounds. Some programs will accept #3 bottles and other PVC products like shower curtains and old pipes. Some won’t. 
  • Yard & Kitchen Waste 
  • Even small yards generate leaves and plant debris and there's tons of material coming from your kitchen when you cook veggies. Any communities have your recycling programs, and even if your yard is small, you can bar your neighbors been. For kitchen waste, a simple vermicompost bin – purchase or make -  is a fabulous idea and you get wonderful soil for all of your plants or garden. Search the blog or Facebook for our DIY.