Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tips for Recycling Hard-to-Recycle Stuff

By Bill Gerlach | Follow me on Twitter

In the quest to throw away less, our family has always been challenged by a few things, namely what to do with all that hard-to-recycle stuff. Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), batteries and items made of #5 plastic (e.g., yogurt containers) top our list.

So we did a little digging and compiled this little list of resources to help you keep more stuff out of your landfill:

Remember that CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, so sending them to the landfill is not a good idea. A few options for recycling include:
Did you know that nearly 3 billion batteries are sold in the U.S. annually? With all the different types out there, knowing what to do with each kind can get confusing. While non-rechargeable kinds tend to be throw-away, re-chargeable varieties should be recycled. Here are some resources:
  • The Environment, Health and Safety Online (EHSO) site is a great one-stop resource for all you could ever want to know about batteries and their disposal. You can search for local recycling centers by zip code too.
  • Earth 911 -- Just put in your zip code and go for batteries too. Search now.
  • Rhode Island residents can bring spent automotive and re-chargeable batteries to any Eco-Depot event.
This stuff abounds. From yogurt containers to take-out containers to you name it, #5 plastic is everywhere. Given its low re-sale value, many municipal/state recycling programs don't take it. There are some great options out there though:
  • Preserve -- The maker of cool recycled plastic toothbrushes and razors has teamed up with Whole Foods and Stonyfield Yogurt to create the "Gimme5" campaign. Details here. 
  • Earth 911 -- Just put in your zip code and go for this stuff too. Search now.

According to a 2008 Consumer Electronics Association study, the average American household owns 24 electronic devices. In an era where it's easier to throw old, broken electronics in the trash instead of repairing them, there is too much potential for some of the hazardous materials in them to wreak havoc. Here are some alternatives:
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in partnership with many consumer electronics companies, has launched the "Plug-In e-Cycling" program. Details and retailer drop off locations are here.
  • Earth 911 -- You know the drill. Search now. 
  • Rhode Island resident? Select e-waste items can be brought to most Eco-Depot events
Good luck and be well!


    heron said...

    WRWA is hosting the 4th annual Computer and Electronics Recycling day on April 24th, so start gathering up all of your batteries, lightbulbs, computers, and electronics. The event was a big success last few years with tens of thousands of pounds of electronics recycled. Complete Recycling Solutions from Fall River will return this year to help rid you of unwanted technology at special discounted rates. For a pdf with a list of what will be accepted and the cost for recycling items, please see WRWAs website www.westportwatershed.org. Please note: cash and checks only, no credit/debit cards will be accepted. They will load all of the items into their trucks and then dispose of them properly and responsibly.

    BILL GERLACH said...

    heron -- Thanks for the heads-up on that event. Sounds great!

    Kathy said...

    Just found your blog via Far Beyond the Stars. Great, practical, green blog!

    I'm commenting here, because you mentioned that the #5 plastics are hard to recycle. FWIW, I reuse mine for starting seedlings for the garden. I drill some small holes in the bottom first. And since I buy far less yogurt in the tiny cups these days, I intend to reuse what I have indefinitely.

    BILL GERLACH said...

    Hi Kathy,

    Great idea! It's amazing how many uses you can find for things if you just get a little creative.

    And thanks again for stopping by!