A-Z of Recycling
by Nancy Evans
Waste: Americans alone produce 50 million tons of e waste every year: includes cell phones, tvs, computers, coffee makers, refrigerators, vacuums. Less than 25% are recycled safely.
350 ppm (or “parts per million”) is the number that leading scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. We are already above that amount. Let's try to burn less trash.
1 800 Got Junk does NOT recycle your goods. The pick up staff will tell you, honestly, that they take everything to the dump. They also are honest that the sales team you encounter on the phone has recycling as part of their sales pitch, but you need to understand, they do not recycle.
Aluminum: (see cans)
Auto: have an old car you don't want to bother selling? Consider RecycleRides, a nationwide program that repairs old vehicles to be donated to needy families
and charitable groups. For a total win-win, the Chester County Technical College HS has signed on to learn the magic of auto repair and body work by participating in this program.
Baby stuff: contact
Accepted items: Gently used stuffed animals, new stuffed animals, gently used toys, new toys, gently used children's books, new children's books, gently used baby/children's blankets, new baby/children's blankets, gently used children's clothes, new children's clothes, gently used outdoor winter garments, new outdoor winter garments.
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Batteries: (rechargeable) check call2recycle.org for local drop off locations
which include Radio Shack, Home Depot, and Staples or check earth911.com for recycling locations.We've had some issues about recycling batteries, plain old ones, not just re-chargable. It seems that some of the organizations listed only take the re-chargable ones.
Here are a few places listed that say they do take them
recycling the conventional (single-use) battery variety:
Save Some Green (2005 Chestnut St)
Eforce Compliance (3114 Grays Ferry Ave)
Best Buy, Home Depot, Staples, Lowes only take the re-chargable ones.
Bikes: garage cluttered with an old bike? there are other options besides the curb. Chamounix Mansion Hostel (in Fairmount Park) will take and repair for use by their guests. (as an aside, they can sometimes use furniture, china and glassware)
or Neighborhood Bike Works, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. They accept donations of old bikes, tools and bike parts. They provide bikes and a number of bike classes and youth programs to underserved neighborhoods in Philadelphia.The web site is neighborhoodbikeworks.org
Books: there are many local organizations that use donated books for fundraisers. The library in Chestnut hill is one. Springfield township highschool is another. The Salvation army is a third. BUT, if you have some beautiful children’s books that you can’t bear to simply donate, there is the childrensbookproject.org
Children who have not developed some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are 3-4 times more likely to drop out in later years.
1 in 5 high school graduates cannot read their diplomas and 21 million Americans cannot read.
Bottled water: Bottled Water. Get it out of your life! (You already know the reasons* why you should.) Take one small step for the environment. It's an easy one.
1. It's expensive.
2. Millions of barrels of oil are used to make those bottles.
3. Only a small fraction of bottles are recycled; the rest are happily residing in landfills where they are ensured a very long life.
4. About 40% of bottled water is simply filtered tap water, including that of some of the biggest labels.
5. Somehow, we all managed without bottled water for much of our lives. Why do you need it now?
6. Ask yourself why you purchase bottled water. Do you think it's better than tap? Is it purely for convenience? Is it just a bad habit?
7. The fact is that there are lots of good reasons NOT to consume bottled water, and almost no good reasons to do so. Treat yourself to a home filtering system and a snazzy water bottle to keep you company wherever you go.
There are scores of articles on the subject of bottled water and the environment. One interesting article can be found at My favorite water bottle (made by Hydro Flask) can be found at local EMS stores. It's pricy, but you'll love it. (thank you Cheryl Cheston)
Bridal gowns: with 2 sons, there is no one to wear the gown that my mother tossed out anyway, but if she’d saved it, I would call Brides Against Breast Cancer or BridesAcrossAmerica.com. Brides Against Breast Cancer™ contributes to programs for cancer patients and their families. Their outreach and educational efforts during their “Tour of Gowns” bridal shows around the country help ensure that people impacted by cancer have the resources and information they need in their battle with cancer. It is all possible because of generous gifts to bridesagainstbreastcancer.org. Brides Across America donates the dress to a military bride.
Building materials: planetreuse.com...how it works: You want to use recycled materials in your project. Or, you have reclaimed materials to share. They find the best ways to make the connection. Your schedule and budget benefit, and—crucially—so does the planet. Reclaimed materials are typically available at a 15 to 20 percent savings over new and lets not forget that 40% of landfill comes from construction materials.
Cans: New statistics released by the Aluminum Association this year indicate the aluminum can recovery rate is on the rise and reached 65.1% in 2011. That makes aluminum cans the world's most recycled beverage container. New statistics released by the Aluminum Association this year indicate the aluminum can recovery rate is on the rise and reached 65.1% in 2011.
Catalogs: catalogchoice.org which is a service that lets you opt of of specific catalogues. I have been daily taking 3 min to log in and list those catalogues I don't want (slutty lingerie, really?) Eliminates mail you don't want and helps environment. Easy solution. Also, check out Paper Karma a free app for your smartphone. You just take a photo of the address label on the catalog and they contact the company for you. Takes a few weeks but really works well.
Cellphones: hazardous waste collection is one resource. Radio Shack, Best Buy, and Home Depot also accept. Check call2recycle.org to confirm locations. or check earth911.com for locations.
CFL bulbs: While switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs is one of the easiest ways to save energy and money, disposing them with regular waste is actually hazardous due to their mercury content. When they do burn out - which should take a good 2-5 years – bring them to Home Depot or IKEA, who will collect them for safe recycling. or go to earth911.com to find a recycling center near you. If every home in America replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified CFL, in one year it would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes. That would prevent the release of greenhouse gas emissions equal to that of about 800,000 car.
EPA estimates the U.S. is responsible for the release of 103 metric tons of mercury emissions each year. More than half of these emissions come from coal-fired electrical power. Mercury released into the air is the main way that mercury gets into water and bio-accumulates in fish.
(Most mercury vapor inside fluorescent light bulbs becomes bound to the inside of the light bulb as it is used. EPA estimates that the rest of the mercury within a CFL – about 11 percent– is released into air or water when it is sent to a landfill, assuming the light bulb is broken. Therefore, if all 272 million CFLs3 sold in 2009 were sent to a landfill (versus recycled, as a worst case) – they would add 0.12 metric tons, or 0.12 percent, to U.S. mercury emissions caused by humans.)
EPA recommends that consumers take advantage of available local recycling options for compact fluorescent light bulbs. EPA is working with CFL manufacturers and major U.S. retailers to expand recycling and disposal options. Consumers can contact their local municipal solid waste agency directly, or go to epa.gov/cfl/cflrecycling.html or to identify local recycling options.
If your state or local environmental regulatory agency permits you to put used or broken CFLs in the garbage, seal the bulb in two plastic bags and put it into the outside trash, or other protected outside location, for the next scheduled trash collection. Never send a fluorescent light bulb or any other mercury-containing product to an incinerator.
OR: instead of CFL’s, consider switching to LED. They are a gigantic improvement over regular bulbs as well as CFL’s. LED’s last 25 times as long as reg bulbs and 3 times as long as CFL’s. They consume much less energy, they’re not hot, and they’re rugged. It’s hard to break an LED but if you do, there’s no danger. And technology has improved the quality of light from an LED and brought the price down. The NYTimes reviewed all the current LED’s and found that Cree LED bulbs, available at Home Depot, is the best because these bulbs look like an incandescent, are well priced, and are extraordinarily efficient.
Clothing: I am sure everyone is very familiar with clothing recycling through
GoodWill, Salvation Army, Purple Heart and others. And keep in mind Dress for Success Philadelphia chapter for clothing appropriate for women transitioning into the workplace. For clothing not in good enough condition to donate, there are other options. Clothing can be used again in one form or another. Discarding would be a waste, not just of the material itself, but of the water and energy that went into the manufacturing. No minor thing, that. Fresh water is a dwindling resource and energy use contributes to global warming, the biggest environmental problem of our times. New York City already has in place curbside recycling programs for clothing. Rumor has it that people living in the Philadelphia region will be able to recycle their textiles with a curbside program run by Fairless Hills, Pa.-based textile recycler Community Recycling and family-owned waste hauling company George Leck and Son Inc. As part of an agreement between the two companies, George Leck and Son will offer curbside recycling of textiles for its clients in the Philadelphia region, Montgomery County, NE Philadelphia and Southern Lehigh County areas, according to a press release from the companies last August 2012. This is something we should urge our local leaders to follow up.
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Coats: One Warm Coat: redistributes coats; go to for partners
Shoes: see below
Coats: Have a coat that is too nice to toss into the GoodWill Box? Try OneWarmCoat.org for drop off locations.
Coffee makers: Many modern coffee makers have electronic components such as clocks and timers, which qualifies them as electronic waste. Similar to a computer or television, these machines have valuable metals and plastic inside that can be reused or reprocessed. Electronic products often use heavy metals, such as lead and mercury, in their circuitry. Recycling keeps these hazardous materials out of landfills.
Computers: in addition to local hazardous waste collections, you can contact the Nonprofit Technology Resources, a 501(c)3 non-profit, serving low-income people in Philadelphia by recycling used computers, providing hands on work experience, and assisting community-based service organizations to use computers in their work. Their email address is http://ntrweb.org. They are located at 1524 Brandywine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19130.
Electronics in general: earth911.com for recycling locations
CDs & DVDs Cell Phones Computer Monitors Computers DVD Players Inkjet Cartridges MP3 Players Office Machines,Televisions VCRs Video Games & Consoles
Electric Savings; Smart power strips
Chances are you have upwards of 25 appliances in your house that
suck power from your system whether they're 'on' or not, 24 hours a
day. Those appliances are energy vampires. When the device
connected to the monitored socket – e.g., the computer - is turned off,
the Smart Strip cuts power to each of the controlled sockets, insuring
that those other devices - the printer, fax, etc... - are also off. As
always, make sure that your power strip meets basic standards in
addition to providing bells and whistles.
Evening dresses: get rid of dress up clothes that no longer fit (face it) at donatemydress.org; they donate them for proms, sweet 16’s, and quinceaneras.
Eyeglasses: More than 4 million pairs a year are trashed...When I’ve collected a few, I mail them to the nonprofit, 501C3, New Eyes for the Needy at 549 Millburn Ave, PO Box 332, Short Hills, NJ 07078; they send a donation receipt back to you. New Eyes receives monetary donations and used eyeglasses from individuals, religious groups, civic groups, opticians and manufacturers. According to Dyckman, New Eyes receives between 200,000 and 300,000 pairs of glasses per year, averaging at a retail price of $250 per pair. Because of this steep cost, Dyckman noted that for those people who could not normally afford them, these glasses may be "the only pair of glasses they'll ever own."
In the U.S., New Eyes uses a voucher program, where those who qualify can take their voucher to any optician who accepts their reimbursement for a new pair of glasses. According to Dyckman, "100 percent of individual donations and foundation donations go to the purchase of new glasses." In other countries, donated pairs of glasses are fitted to individuals by volunteer groups, such as medical missions, across the globe.
(Prisoners in Las Vegas’ Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Facility are learning skills in how to recycle and refurbish spent eyeglasses, including how to use a lensometer and techniques on how to classify and package eyewear for distribution,Nevada is the second state to jump on board with the program, right behind six facilities in California.)
Food: of course, we’re all familiar with Philabundance. But are you aware of
AmpleHarvest.org. They will take the overflow from your garden. Check web site for locations
Glass: glass is one of the best candidates for recycling because it never loses quality the way some other recyclable materials do. Bottles can be made into new bottles over and over again. Who knew recycling a single glass bottle would allow you to spend 30 minutes browsing the internet? Just think what recycling a whole case of beer or soda bottles could do.
Ink cartridges: Staples takes old ink cartridges and as a bonus, gives you rewards dollars you can use at their store. Also, check earth911.com for centers
Jeans: any jeans hanging around that don’t fit anymore, or look dated? Besides giving them to the Salvation Army or another local clothing source, consider cottonfrombluetogreen.org From Blue to Green.® denim drive is a call-to-action to donate denim and give it "new life" by converting it into UltraTouch™Denim Insulation. The insulation is then provided to communities in need to assist with building efforts. UltraTouch™ is composed of 85% recycled cotton fibers and is an environmentally safe, non-itch insulation without carcinogenic warnings, formaldehyde or chemical irritants. It provides exceptional thermal performance and acoustically provides 30% better sound absorption than traditional fiberglass insulation. In addition, it is one of the only insulating products that contain an active mold/mildew inhibitor. Whoo hoo!
L for Luggage: Goodwill and Salvation Army find luggage among their least valued donations; however there is an organization called Suitcase for Kids project. It was making news a year ago. They donate suitcases to children in the foster care program. It is something that we would need to spearhead- contact the local Department of Social Services Foster Care to find out their need and then advertise within different communities collect and deliver to Social Services. Could be a club project.
Packaging peanuts (see styrofoam)
Paper: The average American uses 5.57 40-foot trees worth of paper each year, according to The Economist, so it's worth your time to recycle what you can.
Paper towels: many paper towels are already made from recycled paper so the fibers are usually too short to be recovered,Mother Nature Network reports.
Your best bet for recycling paper towels is to compost them, either in your yard or through a yard waste or food waste collection program (if your area offers one).
Each roll of paper towels requires 5 gallons of water plus trees, and chemicals to bleach and treat the paper. Best to buy eco friendly paper towels such as 7th Generation and Marcal Recycled. Try to avoid towels that use dyes for prints, but more importantly, look to alternatives like bamboo paper towels, the swedish dishcloths etc.
Paint: Latex paint is recyclable, but oil-based paint is considered hazardous household waste (a/k/a HHW). Often HHW facilities will collect usable paint to combine and resell or give away to residents. Check with your local government to find a HHW facility in your community.
OR, Global Paint for Charity accepts latex or oil paint, regardless of the amount or age; Call 678 314 3521 or 855 853 7772 or The United Nations Human Settlements Program estimates that more than 1.6 Billion residents in developing countries live in poor quality housings; unpainted schools, churches, refugee camps and hospitals with dirt walls and lack of sanitation. Nearly 2.5 billion people in developing countries live on less than $2 a day. When they decide to buy food, medicine and other necessities there is not enough left to buy paint. With your donation to Global Paint for Charity, you can help give a family hope and provide them with the quality of paint so desperately need. Your paint donation will transform communities and change lives in the U.S. and developing countries around the world. I think this one is a real win-win for us all. Clear out your garage/basement and help someone else improve their living space.
One gallon of paint pollutes 250,000 gallons of drinking water. Oil based paint is considered hazardous household waste (aka HHW). You can recycle your latex paint can if it's dried and empty with uour normal curbside delivery. If there is a lot of paint left in can, use kitty litter to absorb it before putting out with trash.
Pet Items: old blankets, extra dog food, leashes, food bowls, can all be used by rescue groups or your local SPCA. Veterinarians and dog groomers also appreciate the donation of old towels, and other items. Ask first.
Phonebooks: People probably don't give much thought to what happens to phone books when they're done with them, and many haven't considered whether they even want to have a phone book in their home in the first place. Recycling 500 phone books can save 7,000 gallons of water. Visit the National consumer choice opt out site and opt out of receiving any unwanted phone books.
Plastic bags: 89 billion are used in the US each year. Most supermarkets have a drop off location for bags from the grocery, newspaper wraps and dry cleaning.
Plastic water bottles: by recycling just one water bottle, you can power a 60watt bulb for six hours. This is because producing plastic from recycled materials only requires ⅔ of the energy to produce it raw.
Random: consider using Craig’s list for Philly; go to the sale section, and post your item. Someone will want it. When I’ve had odd lots (i.e. 2 ½ boxes of perfectly good, but leftover tiiles) I’ve used the free section and been amazed at the number of people who want, need and can really use whatever it is taking up space in my house.
OR, contact theresourceexhange.org If you have reusable materials that you no longer need that could be reused for artistic, educational or building purposes email or call 267.997.0060 to discuss the materials you wish to donate. The Resource Exchange 1800 American Street Philadelphia, Pa 19122 -no drop off without prior approval. (think fabric, glue, glitter, buttons, curtains, etc)
Easy Way to Get Rid of Stuff: The Buy Nothing Project- "A global network of community based groups that encourages giving of consumer goods and services in preference to conventional commerce." I have many friends who have used this in Chester Springs and in Malvern. There are many local groups in Pennsylvania. It is a private group run by an administrator that you join. Things that you post/offer are only visible to the members of the group.
Roof shingles: asphalt shingles make up 67% of the roofing market; 200 feet of a 2 lane highway can be paved by the recycled shingles from one average sized home.
Use a contractor who recycles and the shingles and other debris from your home will be contained in a box, truck or trailer, which is shipped to a recycler. The shingles are separated from other debris and cleaned. They are ground and magnets are used to remove any nails or other metal items. Finally, the shingles are taken to a hot mix asphalt plant where they are incorporated at roughly a five percent level into the mix that will be used in pavement. Owens Corning roofing is one of the foremost shingle producers and is committed to recycling. All of their contractors recycle.
Shoes: in addition to the traditional sites as Goodwill, Salvation Army etc; you can check Soles4Shoes.com for a local drop off site. They have distributed millions of shoes in over 127 countries. Keep this in mind as more than 350 million pairs of shoes are thrown in landfills annually.
Soccer gear: consider donating old soccer equipment and clothing to peacepassers.org. Inquire at
Steel: when a ton of steel is recycled, 1400 lbs of coal is conserved.
Steel is the most recycled material in North America. The recycling rate for steel packaging is 70.8%, while the rate for automobile recycling is an impressive 94.5%. I feel better now about the 2 cars my kids totaled.
Styrofoam: is actually a number six plastic but for a variety of reasons is not accepted for curbside recycling programs yet. The truth is most forms of Styrofoam are recyclable. The problem is there aren’t many facilities that accept this material for recycling. For recycling to be cost effective and feasible you need a large amount of material. Recycling is measured and valued by the ton. Styrofoam is so light and bulky that this makes it difficult for facilities to manage Styrofoam. Styrofoam is similar to plastic bags in which it takes a very very long time to break down naturally so it sits in landfills for a very long time. A lot municipal and commercial waste is brought to incinerators in the area. The Styrofoam is then burned. The problem is it can be very toxic when burned and produces very little energy from combustion. There really isn’t a good disposal method for Styrofoam. Recycling of Styrofoam may not be realistic for small quantities. Instead of finding ways to recycle the material maybe we need to look at ways to reduce our consumption of Styrofoam. When purchasing a product we should consider how its packaged and what we’ ll do with the packaging afterwards. However, in Philadelphia, the city recently unveiled a foam recycling pilot project. With this project, you can now drop off foam products to the Northeast Sanitation Convenience Center located at State Road and Ashburner Street. You must be a Philadelphia resident to use this site.
For most of us, recycling solid blocks of polystyrene is not available. That's the bad news. The good news is that the Polystyrene Packaging Association maintains a partial listing of industrial entities that will accept waste polystyrene for recycling purposes. If you happen to live near one of them and can get your municipal authority to sponsor something (if a program is not already in place) you could be positioned to do something constructive.
OR, you could mail it back. Average shipping fees range from $1.50-$9.00 based on the total packaging weight and volume. Since expanded polystyrene is extremely light weight (98% air) it can be economically shipped to a regional location. Considering that the average car gets approximately 15-20 miles per gallon (mpg) at $3.50 to $4.00 per gallon, the postage cost to return EPS for recycling is often an economical, environmentally-friendly choice depending on the distance covered to reach the closest community drop-off location.( In Pennsylvania, that would be Foam Fabricators, 7050 Columbia Blvd, 17 Industrial Drive, Bloomsburg, PA 17815, phone 570 752 7110 or Foam Fabricators at 6550 West Ridge Road, Erie, PA 16506)
Recycling packaging peanuts is easier. Participating The UPS Store locations accept clean foam packaging peanuts of all sizes, shapes, and colors for reuse. For additional information on peanut recycling consumers can visit www.loosefillpackaging.com. where those businesses that accept the peanuts are listed.
What exactly is technotrash?
Technotrash is a relatively new waste stream which includes all the spent supplies and obsolete accessories associated with your computer. This waste includes all those computer-related materials which you no longer need and have stuffed away in drawers, closets, and boxes in your office, storage room, attic, or in your garage. Old computers and printers, CD’s, hard drives, Zip disks, floppy disks, obsolete cell phones, rechargeable batteries, empty printer cartridges, and all the cables, cords, chips or boards that came with this once important equipment – this is all technotrash. We all have this stuff, but most of us just don’t know how to properly dispose of it.
Why should I recycle my technotrash?
The environmental factor: Recycling keeps your electronic waste, some of which contains hazardous material, out of landfills (or your garage). As we move farther into the information age, the volume of obsolete computer equipment and supplies is becoming a serious problem that needs to be dealt with responsibly. Today, over 80% of technotrash is not being recycled. Some is thrown away, but most remains unused sitting on desks or taking up storage space.
What happens to the technotrash sent to Greendisk.com?
Green Disk uses a network of non-profit organizations to process the material. They refurbish what they can and recycle the rest. Inkjet cartridges get remanufactured and, when possible, cell phones and some computers get refurbished. Material that has no further operating life is broken down to its smallest components (metals, plastics, etc.) and used in the manufacturing of new products. Unlike some recycling companies, almost 100% of the material that GreenDisk collects is reused or recycled. No hazardous materials or obsolete components go overseas to be processed or disposed of.
Be careful of disposing some of this techno-trash with non profits like the Salvation Army. VHS tapes degrade after about ten to twelve years; cd’s do not always maintain clarity. If the products are not viable, these organization throw them in the trash. I disposed of about 40 VHS tapes with Green Disk for a cost of about $30. ($20 for mailing, and $10 as a donation).
The average American household spends more than $2,000 a year on
energy bills. Nearly half of that goes to heating and cooling.
Programmable thermostats are one of the most-effective and least
expensive tools to combat this cost. Not only do they save money, they
reduce energy use and greenhouse gases, and add considerable
convenience and comfort to your home. Homeowners can save about
$220 right off the top by properly setting their programmable
thermostats and maintaining those settings.
Our recommendation is to buy an ENERGY STAR qualified
thermostat. Do a little research as there are 3 different types and they
may need an electrician to install.