In a society with increasingly rampant consumerism, more and more trash is being produced every year. This garbage ends up in the landfills, leaching dangerous chemicals into the soil and taking generations to decompose completely. Before you toss something in the bin, find out if you can recycle it.
Skip the Landfill and Recycle Instead
Different jurisdictions may have different laws and systems in place when it comes to the suitable processing of recyclable materials. Outside of what public collection services can provide, it is still possible to recycle a broad range of items and materials through third-party services too.
CDs, DVDs, and Video Games
Most optical discs--like CDs, DVDs, and video game discs for systems like the Wii and PlayStation-- are made primarily of plastic. This also includes writeable and re-writeable data discs (CD-Rs, CD-RWs, DVD-RWs, and so on). If you are sending in a disc for recycling that contains personal data, it is recommended that you shred the disc or otherwise destroy it to protect against identity or data theft.
The recycling program at Best Buy accepts CDs and other similar discs through the kiosks round in the company's stores across the country. Alternatively, small quantities of discs can be mailed to the CD Recycling Center of America in Salem, New Hampshire. They request that you separate the materials, like the case and the paper insert, before shipping.
Shoes are a natural wear-and-tear item and shoes that have been thoroughly worn may not be the best candidates for donation to goodwill. Most people throw away their old shoes, but that footwear can find new life in the form as turf and other surfaces through the Nike Reuse-A-Shoe program.
The program grinds down worn out athletic shoes and turns them into a material called Nike Grind used for a variety of play surfaces and in parts of new clothing by Nike. Worn out running shoes of any brand can be donated at a Nike store near you.
Printer Ink and Toner Cartridges
Recycling old documents and other paper is a common practice in many offices, but the same might not be true for the ink and toner found in printers, photocopiers, and other printing devices.
One of the more convenient options for recycling ink and toner cartridges is offered through Staples. Small quantities can be dropped off in the appropriate recycling bins at Staples stores. Alternatively, for companies with regular deliveries, the delivery driver can also pick up used cartridges for recycling. Old cartridges can also be sent using a free prepaid shipping label.
Packing Peanuts and Other Foam Packaging
Standard packing peanuts and most other Styrofoam packing materials are made from a plastic called expanded polystyrene (EPS, plastic #6), which is recyclable. Even if your local curbside service accepts plastics, it may or may not accept this foam material.
The EPS Industry Alliance has terrific resources on where you can recycle your foam packaging, either through one of the over 200 drop off collection sites or through its mail-back service. Shipping companies like UPS and FedEx may also accept used packing peanuts which customers can then reuse for their own packages.
Washers, dryers, dishwashers, stoves and microwaves all eventually reach the end of their useful lives. At that point, the cost of repair may no longer be worth it and most people would opt to replace them instead.
First check if the retailer from which you are buying your new appliance has a service for picking up and recycling your old unit. Some local municipalities may have a similar service in place. Another option is the Steel Recycling Institute, which has a searchable database of locations where you can drop off your old appliance, as well as other scrap metal.
Reuse and Repurpose Whenever Possible
As much as recycling may be a better option than throwing something in the garbage, reusing or repurposing the item instead is even more preferable. The recycling process still uses up resources, particularly if the item needs to be shipped. By upcycling the item or donating it to a worthy cause, you can give it new life and a new purpose.