Below are some of the more perplexing Can-I-Recycle-This? items with tips for safely recycling them.
Plastic Bags — When you go grocery shopping, it’s generally considered eco-conscious to bring your own tote bags. However, there are times when you don’t have your own bags on hand. What, then, can you do about those pesky plastic supermarket bags, aside from using them for garbage and dog poo? You can recycle them! Some municipalities accept plastic bags (and other plastic-bag-like materials like plastic packaging and produce bags) in curbside pickup, but if yours does not, you need only venture as far as your local supermarket or pharmacy for a drop-off center!
Electronics — You know the situation: You’re cleaning out your closet and you find all manner of tangled cords with nary a matching device in sight! What on earth do you do with all of these defunct chargers and connector cables? Instead of simply tossing them into the trash, you should know that these, along with most other electronic objects, can indeed be recycled! Many municipalities, New York City included, will collect most electronics (even large televisions and computer monitors) after making a pick-up appointment. In fact, after 2015, New Yorkers will be required by law to recycle such objects. Be sure to check your local municipality’s website to see if they have a similar program. On the off chance that they do not, fear not! There are many stores that offer electronics recycling free of charge! Office Depot, for instance, will accept any electronics that fit within their recycling boxes. If you’re an Apple-phile, you can rest assured knowing that all of your Apple products can be dropped off or mailed to any Apple store for recycling— they’ll even give you an Apple gift card in return! Best Buy will also take your electronics off your hands, even if you didn’t purchase them there! Perfect for those obsolete cellphones, chargers, CD players, etc!
Clothing and Shoes — If you’ve simply outgrown or gotten tired of your clothes and shoes, the logical thing to do is donate them to a thrift store. What, though, do you do with fashions and footwear that have become too worn out to be useful? It turns out that you can still drop them off to those very same places. Both the Goodwill and Salvation Army have programs that will accept unusable clothing and textiles and recycle them into things like mattress filling and carpet underlay. If you have worn out denim, the company Cotton From Blue To Green, will take it off your hands and turn it into insulation. If you have old sneakers that can’t be repaired, Nike offers a program that turns old sneakers into track flooring.
Packaging Supplies — If you work in a busy office, it’s likely that you receive a lot of packages and, subsequently, scores of mismatched packaging supplies. Common sense tells you that simply throwing out styrofoam packing peanuts, cardboard boxes, and bubble wrap is a bad thing, so what to do with those pesky things? As it turns out, you can recycle these items at the same place you picked them up from! Participating UPS Stores will accept your used packaging supplies. You can also check out The Plastic Used Fill Council for more local drop-off sites.
Food — That’s right, you can even recycle food. Some municipalities (like Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco) already have curbside recycling programs in place that will collect your compostable food scraps. If your city is still waiting for such programs, however, you might be able to donate your food scraps elsewhere! Many local farmer’s markets, for instance, have drop-off centers for compostable food and household waste. Make sure to check with your local market first!
Everything Else — Whether it’s used house paint, an unfixable air conditioner, car tires, or old furniture, chances are that you can, in fact, recycle it! Although most municipalities will not accept such items through their regular curbside pickup, many have regional drop-off centers that will accept just about any sort of household waste for recycling. Check your local municipality’s website for information about local drop-off centers and what kinds of objects can be recycled. You’ll probably be surprised at just how much can actually be saved from the garbage dump!