R ecycling has been a part of our culture dating back to 400 b.c.e, when metal scraps were melted down for reuse, and ash was recycled to create bricks for masonry. The practice took off during World War II, when it was declared that recycling scrap metal would “Help Us Win.” Since then, habits have changed and legislation has been passed, and now over half of the U.S. population takes part in some kind of recycling program, whether at home or at work. But what about those items that can’t be left curbside? Items like paint, electronics, fluorescent bulbs and car batteries usually cannot be recycled in the traditional way. Though the simple answer is to cut back on the use of these items, most of us truly can not do that, so we’ll address the ways that these items and more are recycled.
Many communities have programs instituted for the recycling of paper, plastics and glass. Empty aerosol cans can be discarded along with the others. Cans with product still in them, need to be disposed of at your local recycling, often with their ‘hazardous waste’ materials. Electronics are often recycled by dealers such as Staples, Best Buy, and other large retailers who have been known to take in old electronics for recycling, often providing a small credit. Also included in this category are used appliances. Some communities will pick-up items such as refrigerators, dishwashers, washers and dryers for recycling, often at a cost. If the appliance is in working order, the Goodwill will pick-up in most areas.
Paint is a toxic substance that can be exceptionally harmful to the environment if not disposed of properly. When buying paint, it is best to try to buy only what you plan to use. With unused paint, try to see if anyone you know could use it, or try to donate it. If neither of those options are feasible, contact your local disposal agency for laws, guidelines and procedures.
The disposal of fluorescent bulbs can be a bit trickier. If the mercury inside broken bulbs leak out, you might have problems. Some retailers such as Home Depot recycle CFL bulbs, as do some waste recycling agencies. They can be thrown out in the trash only if they are securely contained within a strong plastic lining.
Car batteries and household appliances are often recycled by dealers and manufacturers, can be easily switched out with the purchase of a new appliance. In some cases, there is a credit awarded to the purchase of an energy-efficient appliance when recycling your old one. Check with the dealer for the specifics regarding this sort of exchange.
Contrary to some beliefs, it is NOT recommended to flush unwanted medications down the toilet. Some of what gets flushed ends up in our streams and rivers. Make sure all unwanted medications are crushed and that personal information has been removed from any container. Cooking oil and grease, when poured down the drain, can cling to pipes and create havoc on your plumbing system. Some choose to pour them off into coffee cans to toss later, while others prefers to soak it into shredded paper for basic trash disposal.
If you change your own motor oil, Walmart, Jiffy Lube, and many auto part stores will recycle your used oil. When recycling anything, you are doing your part in reducing your carbon footprint and saving energy. Knowing the proper disposal of your waste will get you on the right path to ‘green’ thinking.