I have a landfill across the road from my house. It isn’t pretty, and it’s a frankly distressing reminder of the waste we produce daily. On windy days, garbage even blows into my yard from what we locals lovingly call “Trash Mountain.” Merely catching this majestic pile of refuse out of the corner of my eye propels me daily to recycle all that I can! I know the basics- I can recycle aluminum (for 10 cents a pop, where I live!), glass, plastic, Styrofoam, and paper. But am I really recycling all I can?
Some things can’t go in your bin to be shipped off to the local recycling plant. Allow me to give you a cheat sheet of things you may not have known you can send to the world of reduction, reuse, and recycling! Jot it down and stick it on your fridge, and don’t forget to recycle that piece of paper once you’ve got it down!
Paper towel is not recyclable in the traditional sense, because the fibers are typically too short to be reused. They’re usually made from recycled paper, and the fibers shrink after each use. Paper towels are the last stop for reusing paper, which can be repurposed 5 to 7 times before the fibers are just too small and they become rolls of Bounty. Plus, only clean items, free of germy contaminants like food or other grime, can be recycled. The smallest speck of food can render a whole lot of previously recyclable items landfill fodder.
So, what’s the next best thing? How can you dispose of your paper towel in such a way that it won’t expand Trash Mountain? Compost it! The same issues that make paper towel a terrible candidate for the recycling bin make it perfect for your compost bin. Controlled composting practices also ensure that the square you used to wipe up the table after dinner releases carbon dioxide instead of environmentally toxic methane.
Don’t throw away that little plastic box your floss came in! This is one product you can repurpose yourself. You can store spare change or bus tokens in them for easy finding in your purse. Turn them into a holder for your hair ties, bobby pins, and hair clips. Discreetly transport a condom (or a few)! Glue a scrap of sandpaper to the inside of the lid and store matches in the box to cut down on matchbook waste. You can even make a tiny travel emergency sewing kit, using the spool assembly for thread and the rest of the space for needles, safety pins, and buttons.
Your online packaging materials are, of course, recyclable. The box can go in your bin and to the plant—easy peasy! Plastic air pillows, (popped) bubble wrap, clothing bags, and any other stretchy plastics can usually be dropped off at your local grocery store. Your packing peanuts can be taken to a UPS store for safe disposal, and tissue paper can be personally reused or thrown in the compost with the paper towel.
Produce and Bread Bags
Take your produce and bread bags to the grocery store when you drop off your air pillows and bubble wrap.
To recycle your vast collection of wine corks, go to www.recork.org, or visit Pinterest and turn them into a DIY lampshade, bath mat, flip-flops, and more.
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