Ever since a haunting fourth-grade video about how fish, fowl & animals can get stuck in plastic like plastic six-pack soda rings, we’ve all been concerned about the environment. We make things out of more eco-responsible biodegradable materials and we recycle and encouraged our neighbors to do the same. This journey took us through college when recycling cans and bottles meant more money for beer, and to the dingy first apartments of our twenties when we had bins for every type of recycling, plus compost, and some of us spent weekends dumpster diving, upcycling things we couldn’t believe others would throw away. True story: some of us found Stickley and Bakelite stuff in the TRASH, good pieces we have to this day… Sheesh!
Cut to today, this very moment. Though our intentions are as good, life seems to have stepped in and gotten ever more hectic and complicated. And recycling programs have grown immensely, which is a good thing. How our ten-year-old hearts would sing, but our aging eyes are crinkling at all the small symbols on products we use every day, and we’re not sure we’re sorting into the right bins anymore.
Let’s see if we can help sort out some recycling mysteries so we can continue to act responsibly without making it a full-time job.
Let’s begin with the most common recycling symbol that we see on some products: the Mobius loop is three arrows in triangular formation, each pointing to the next like a snake biting its tail. This sign means a product can be recycled – not necessarily by the solid waste department that handles your trash, but by someone, somewhere.
HDPE (high-density polyethylene), identified by the number 2 inside the Mobius loop, is the most common packaging plastic in most households. You will see this on everything from shampoo bottles to yogurt tubs. These items can be recycled into pens, plastic lumber, dog houses, and other useful and surprising things. This type of recycling is collected at curbside in many communities.
LDPE (low-density polyethylene), identified by the number 4, is plastic are usually used for bread wrappers, dry cleaning and shopping bags, and sometimes squeeze bottles. You may have to do a bit of research to find a place that takes these, but they are definitely recyclable and can be turned into floor tiles and shipping envelopes. More communities are starting to accept these. Remember those grocery shopping bags: if your community doesn’t recycle them, you can return them to the store from whence they came.
When it comes to recycling large household appliances, your best bet may be to contact an appliance professional. They know how to handle the harmful liquids and gasses that may be lying in wait to escape from your old fridges and monitors. You can work with charities to donate your gently-used equipment to the less fortunate or to our troops abroad or find a waste management company if your appliances are older and will likely be used only for scrap metal. Either way, safety comes first. Remove those refrigerator doors if you are leaving them on the curb.
Single-use batteries can be recycled during a hazardous waste collection effort, which occurs at least annually in many communities. If you live outside a large metropolitan area, contact your local transfer station to inquire about your options.
We are always on the lookout for more ways to recycle. Please write in with tips about local programs.
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Another way to reduce your solid waste footprint is to use reusable cleaning cloths instead of paper towels, especially one that rinses 99.9% germ free time and again, like the DURAFRESH™ cloths Made from renewable wood fibers and free of toxic chemicals, they’re compostable, so they never have to enter the solid-waste stream. Learn where you can purchase them.