Waste & recycling
Disposing of Everyday Household Items
Disposal of certain household items can be challenging as it isn't always as easy as throwing things into the trash can. There are times that we use things and don't know how to properly dispose of them. We think that just throwing items in the trash will suffice and not do too much damage. Ever have a lightbulb that died on you and you just threw in the trash or threw one of those plastic bags from the grocery store out? Doing these things can cause a lot of harm to the environment but luckily, it's an easy fix. Educating ourselves on how to properly dispose of items can go a long way. Certain places will accept your hard to dispose of items with little or no extra cost to you. Sometimes it's as easy as throwing them into the recycle in. Also looking into avoiding buying items that are hard to dispose of and replacing them with a better option is another thing that can be done. A lot of people are shying away from excessive plastic usage because there are much better options that not only reduce the amount used but are also simple to do that don't require a large amount of effort.
Getting Rid of Household Plastics
Plastic usage has become a large part of our everyday lives. Many of us can't go throughout our day without using at least one plastic item, whether it be a plastic water bottle, food storage container or plastic straw. Now more than ever we should become more conscious of how to properly dispose of plastic waste. The plastic that isn't simply put into a recycling bin includes plastic bags, plastic film, and plastic outdoor furniture. So that leaves the question, what do we do with these items?
What Plastics Can Be Recycled?
The most common plastic that is recycled are beverage bottles. Plastic food storage containers may also be able to be recycled. It is important to check with your local county or municipality on what plastic items they do accept. Generally, plastic beverage bottles, storage containers, and other forms of plastic containers such as shampoo bottles and plastic spray bottles are accepted to be recycled. Some companies even take yogurt or butter tubs. To tell if your plastic is recyclable simply look at the bottom of the bottle or container and you should see a small triangle with a number either inside or below it. If the number is between 1 to 7 you can generally place it into the recycling bin unless your township specifically says you cannot.
What Plastics Cannot Be Recycled and What Can I Do?
Some items are not able to be thrown into recycling bins for a number of reasons. These household plastics that cannot be recycled are:
Plastic wraps and plastic bags are not as widely accepted by recycling facilities due to them being able to get stuck in the equipment and bringing the machines to a standstill. Chip bags are not normally recycled because they are made with layers of different plastics and lined with aluminum which isn’t easy to separate. When put into regular recycling, they are often incorrectly sorted as paper and can make an entire bale worthless. These items can still be recycled but they have to be taken to a separate location that will accept them. Many grocery stores do take in unwanted plastic bags while many of these other items on the list can be taken to a local collection site. For local drop off sites, it is best to check your county website or go to the Earth911 website.
Plastics that are three inches or smaller like bag clips, pill packaging, and condiment pouches that may also cause problems for the recycling equipment and it is better to just throw them away. These items can get caught or fall in between the belts which might halt the operation.
Finally, as stated in our Simple Recycling blog post, styrofoam is not something that is normally recycled in curbside bins. There are specialized sites where it can be dropped off at. You may use the EPS Industry Alliance recycling location tool to find a location near you.
Getting Rid of Household Appliances and Electronics
Household appliances and electronics such as blenders, televisions, and phones are things we replace every few years and often times, are just thrown into a trash can. While it is easy and convenient to do, throwing electronics away causes electronic waste or E-waste. Electronics are created with natural resources such as copper, aluminum, and iron. The improper disposal of them can cause environmental and economic damage when these materials are put into the waste stream.
E-Waste is separated into six different categories:
Temperature exchange equipment
Monitors and screens
Small IT and telecommunication electronic equipment
Now that you have a small idea of what these items are, how can they be properly disposed of?
Currently, there are businesses that accept old or unwanted electronics. Local stores have programs where they will allow you to trade in items. Some shopping malls even have machines to dispose of cellular devices.
Another option is re-purposing old electronics. While they might not be able to serve their original purpose, an example would be turning an old computer monitor into an aquarium or an old media player into a portable drive. More ideas on how to find new ways to use old electronics visit Mashable's article on 8 Ways to Repurpose Your Old Electronics.
There are businesses that pick up and repair electronics in order to then donate them to non-profits or other people in need.
Consider donating them to local thrift stores.
Fixing the broken device yourself might be a good option for those of you who like to do some DIY. Simples things like broken screens shouldn't mean that you have to replace your devices.
More information and statistics on E-Waste can be found on our blog post, E-Waste Statistics.
Disposal of Furniture
Furniture waste has been increasing more and more throughout the years and while some of it is combusted for energy, much of it still ends up in landfills. We can reduce the amount of it that does end up in landfills in a number of different ways. Recycling old or unwanted furniture, donating it, and upcycling are some options that should be explored. Recycling is the most sustainable and cost-effective option when it comes to furniture disposal.
In order to recycle a piece of furniture, you have to know what the base material is. If it is metal, a local metal recycler may be called to pick up the old piece of furniture. You may even get some money out of it depending on the material as metal is in high demand. For other materials such as wood, plastic, and upholstery, a second-hand store may be contacted or the item can be dropped off at a recycling center. Selling furniture is also an option if you are looking to make some money off of it. Garage sales, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace are some places they can easily be sold.
Furniture donation is another good way to keep furniture out of landfills. Giving furniture away to a friend or donating them to the local Goodwill or Restore makes it easy for you to get rid of unwanted furniture and can create a positive impact on others who might not have the funds to purchase new furniture. You may ask the organization for a donation receipt and potentially receive tax cuts for donating items that are in good condition.
Repairing or re-purposing furniture can be a fun way to keep it out of landfills and help you save money. Doing repairs yourself can help you improve old skills or learn new ones and can be done by following along with some Youtube videos or repair guides that can be found on the internet for free. A more in-depth article to look at on furniture disposal is Recycled Furniture.
Getting Rid of Household Hazardous Waste
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), hazardous household waste is considered to be products that can catch fire, react, or explode under some circumstances. Some may also be corrosive or toxic which makes them dangerous. Some examples of these items are paints, cleaners, batteries, and oils that may contain hazardous ingredients and may need to be disposed of carefully. Monitoring the use, storage, and disposal of these items is important as they are potentially harmful to the environment and human health. Common incorrect ways that they are disposed of is to pour them down the drain, onto the ground, in storm sewers, or throwing them into the regular trash. Tips for proper handling of household hazardous waste include:
Following use and disposal instructions provided on the product label.
Keeping products in original containers and never remove the labels.
Never mix leftover with other products as they might react, ignite, explode, or become non-recyclable.
Check with your local waste management company for more information on options in your area to disposing of household hazardous waste.
Handle empty containers of hazardous waste with care because of residual chemicals that may potentially still be there.
Reducing Use of Some Items
While we do have the resources to dispose of household waste very easily, we also have the option to reduce our use of some of these items or even stop using them completely. The best way to avoid environmental and self-harm is to take care of it at the source. Here are some examples of ways to reduce use of items that should not just be thrown into the trash after we have finished using them:
Plastic bags: Many people utilize reusable plastic bags. These can normally be found at grocery or any other retail stores for a low price that is usually under $2. More and more places such as Puerto Rico have recognized that plastic bag usage is a large problem and have now started charging for plastic bags if the customer has not brought their own reusable bag.
Plastic Straws: These can be easily replaced by reusable metal straws that can now be found in many larger retail stores such as Wal-Mart or Target.
Plastic sandwich bags: Reusable containers are a much better option because they can be washed after use for another time. Single use plastic bags are normally one use and harmful to the environment.
Sponges: These can be great to wash dishes but they do not last longer than a few weeks at the most. A better alternative would be to use wooden dish brushes that also are better for a deeper clean.
For more about how to reduce the amount of waste you send to landfills, check out our Zero Waste Products Sour Scoop blog post.
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