The Low Down On Green Living
December 17th, 2007
Recycling is an important action for protecting our natural resources, and an easy way to lower the impact you have on the earth. Plus, it just feels good to know that your empty cereal box or beer bottle won’t live on forever in the local landfill. What you might not be so clear on is exactly what can be recycled in your community – it can be confusing, and each city is different. So, we’re laying out the rules of the land for curbside recycling in several cities, as well as some rules that apply to each and every one of us.
First, regardless of where you live, there are some things that absolutely should not be thrown in the trash. There’s even an easy acronym to help you remember the materials that need special handling: BOATY. This stands for Batteries, Oil and other hazardous household liquids, Appliances and other technological devices, Tires, and Yard waste. In most cities, there are special hazardous waste collection sites set up to collect these types of items. Many retails outlets also take back the types of things they sell, like batteries, ink cartridges, and used motor oil. And typically yard wastes are collected separately from other trash and made into mulch by your city. A great resource for finding a location near you is Earth911.org, which enables you to search by item and zip code for a recycling center.
Now, on to curbside recycling. According to the National Recycling Coalition, Americans recycled 32% of their waste in 2006. Since the EPA has set a goal of reaching a 38% by next year, many communities are working on programs to increase their rates of recycling. And since so many communities now have curbside recycling programs, that should be attainable. After all, they come to your house and pick it up for you – it doesn’t get much easier!
According to the Bureau of Sanitation, The City of Angels collects 240,000 tons of recyclables and 480,000 tons of yard trimmings each year. The success of the city’s recycling program is often attributed to the ease of using it – no separating is required, everything just goes in the blue bin. Everything is recyclable that is, including:
- Paper: all types of clean, dry paper, from Post-its to telephone books, plus cardboard and chipboard. So if you can’t make the switch to recycled toilet paper, at least recycle the roll
- Metals: all kinds of cans, plus wire hangars (though your drycleaner will likely be happy to take those back), clean foil, and empty aerosol cans
- Glass: all bottles and jars, rinsed if possible
- Plastics: All clean plastics, types 1-7, including grocery and dry cleaning bags, and yes, even Styrofoam®
If you’re unfamiliar with what we mean by the different types of plastics, click here to read our previous post on the topic. There are many different types of plastics, each with its own unique properties and melting points. The industry has developed an identification system to label the different plastics, using a number code generally found on the bottom of containers. Some recycling programs only take certain codes, so make sure that the plastics that you put out for recycling are accepted by your city.
Having set a goal of diverting 75% of its waste from landfills by 2010, San Francisco has its work cut out for them. But, as the city famous for being the first to ban plastic grocery bags, they seem well positioned to do it. Here is what is accepted in curbside recycling:
- Paper: all types of paper items, from egg cartons to magazines.
- Bottles and Cans: glass, aluminum, steel and spray cans
- All types of plastic bottles(flattened), though plastic tubs and lids are restricted to #2, #4, and #5
Like in LA, everything goes in the blue bin, so it’s pretty foolproof once you get the rules down. And since Styrofoam® is not accepted, try not to use it – encourage your favorite take-out place to switch to paper or recyclable plastic alternatives, and use crumpled newspaper or the cardboard version of Styrofoam “peanuts” to ship your holiday presents. Should you receive Styrofoam peanuts as packaging, take it to a mail house, as they will be able to reuse it.
New York City
In New York, recycling is the law. That’s right, these materials are mandated for recycling:
- Paper and cardboard, including envelopes, cardboard, newspaper, etc.
- Beverage cartons, bottles, cans, metal, and foil
- Bulky metal and appliances with CFC gas
- Fall leaves (in certain districts)
The only plastics accepted for recycling in New York City are bottles & jugs – those items with necks smaller than their bodies. All other plastic containers and all other plastic items should be placed in the regular trash, no matter what the code on the bottom of the container. As the city recommends, “When in doubt leave it out.”
And they mean it. There are specific rules for the packaging of recyclables and the separation of garbage, and violations can garner you a ticket. For example, food and beverage containers must be rinsed clean, and homeowners must tie newspaper and the like into bundles no more than 18” high. Make sure to check all applicable regulations.
- Paper products: newspapers, magazines, catalogs, telephone books, mixed office paper, mail and envelopes
- Cardboard: cardboard boxes, chipboard (like cereal and tissue boxes).
- Glass: unbroken bottles and jars. Fort Worth also accepts ceramics, dishes, mirrors and windowpanes, though not auto windshields
- Plastics: bottles, jars, containers labeled #1-5 and #7; Fort Worth also accepts #6
- Metals: steel, tin, aluminum, and aerosol cans
Unfortunately, Dallas apartment-dwellers must still take their recyclables to one of the city’s drop off centers. But Fort Worth has realized a big incentive for getting people to recycle more: less garbage equals lower bills for residents’ garbage services. Since the city charges by the size of the garbage container, using a smaller one – with the rest going in to the recycling bin – means a smaller bill. This is also the case in Austin, among other cities.
Serving nearly 320,000 homes, Miami has one of the largest residential curbside recycling programs in the country. The system works a little differently, with a green bin for newspaper, cardboard, phone books, and – surprise, surprise! – batteries, which must be in a separate sealed zip-top plastic bag. A blue bin takes cans, glass bottles, plastics #1, 2 and 3, and drink boxes and cartons. Notably, aluminum foil and cereal boxes are not recyclable in Miami.
In addition to curbside recycling, Miami has enacted a law requires apartment building owners and condominium associations to provide recycling services through independent waste haulers and recyclers. Since requirements and recyclables vary, check with your local providers for details.
Finally, it’s no coincidence that Recycle comes last in the phrase Reduce-Reuse-Recycle. Think of it as a hierarchy, with the best option being reducing your consumption. If something that you already have can be used by someone else, pass it along. If that’s not feasible, then turn to recycling. And don’t forget to close the loop – buy things made from recycled materials.
Popularity: 2% [?]