Now is the time for spring cleaning! Love it or hate it, the annual purge is an opportunity to declutter your home, get your space back, and enjoy a feeling of refreshed rejuvenation. As you’re thinning out your stuff, you’ll probably wonder how to make recycling a major part of your effort. In this article, we will describe a few recycling tips to make spring cleaning extra green and earth-friendly.
What Y’all Can Recycle?
First thing first — what exactly can you recycle? A pile of old newspapers is probably a yes, but what about an old computer monitor? Here is where you need to do a little homework and find out what recycling options are available in your area. Community recycling initiatives exist in all sizes and capacities, and there is a lot of variety from one to the next in terms of what they can accept.
Contact your local recycling center and find out what they accept and if there are specific times of the year when they accept certain materials like electronic waste or household chemicals? Don’t let those dates slip by — add them to your calendar. If you know ahead of time when electronics can be picked up for recycling, you can practice proper disposal and keep the clutter from accumulating.
On top of asking the recycling center what they collect, ask if they recommend other area organizations or businesses that facilitate the recycling of specialty items. For example, electronic stores like Best Buy might dispose of your old TV when purchasing a new TV. Many organizations collect old and unneeded cell phones. Your neighbors and a quick Google search can also point you toward those services.
How to Recycle Your Stuff
Although recycling options can be location-specific, here is a list of the items that are often recyclable and some strategies you should keep in mind to make recycling an easy part of your spring cleaning.
Did you know that in 2019, the United States produced nearly 7 million tons of e-waste? That’s about 46 pounds per person, and only 15% of it was recycled. We can do way better than that. And if we want to preserve the environment, we have to do better than that. Old CRT televisions, for example, contain lead, and about 40% of the heavy metals contamination in landfills is from discarded electronics.
If you have an old computer, stereo, cell phone, or TV that you don’t need anymore, don’t throw them in the trash. If they can’t be reused or donated, find the electronic recycling options in your area. Some states like Texas have recycling programs for televisions, computers, and other electronic devices.
Switching from single-use batteries to rechargeable batteries is a great green-living strategy. But even rechargeable batteries eventually wear out. And since they contain mercury, cadmium, and other chemicals, you shouldn’t throw them in the garbage when they reach the end of their life. Many retailers such as RadioShack and Best Buy have rechargeable battery collection receptacles available at no charge. And if you can’t find a retailer to take rechargeable batteries, some services will allow you to mail them.
Household Hazardous Waste
Toxic household chemicals, paint, aerosol cans, and automotive liquids can be a real chore to dispose of properly, which is another reason to minimize their use in the first place. But for what you do generate, don’t pour it down the drain or in some unused area of the backyard where it’ll pollute the environment. Find the recycling center in your area and dispose of it safely.
Fabric & Cloth Items
Old clothes, pillows, blankets, and bedding are perfect for reuse and recycling. Second-hand stores will usually take good quality used clothes. Pet shelters are often in need of pillows and blankets. And anything that’s too worn for reuse, you can cut and use as cleaning rags to reduce the waste of your spring cleaning effort itself!
While this suggestion isn’t technically recycling, it does have to do with being environmentally responsible, so it’s worth mentioning. If you have old or unneeded medication, don’t flush it down the sink or toilet. Water processing facilities aren’t equipped to filter out those chemicals, and they can end up in the ecosystem or even back in the water supply. Ask your local pharmacy for recommendations about safe disposal. And because of the controlled nature of some medications, police departments sometimes sponsor medication collection initiatives.
The reason that we started the article by suggesting you research the recycling options that exist in your area is that there are so many services available that you might not have even considered.
- Ikea has a recycling program for old CFL light bulbs and will collect them at their store.
- Both the Lion’s Club and LensCrafters will recycle your old eyeglasses.
- Some local moving companies will collect reusable cardboard boxes and other packaging materials.
- Nike will even recycle your old athletic shoes, and they don’t even have to be Nike!
- There are many services that accept batteries, lightbulbs, and other items that require special handling. Use their special mailer, send the items to be recycled, and you’re done.
These are just a very small sampling of how you can take your recycling effort beyond newspapers and plastic bottles and reduce your waste and carbon footprint more than you ever thought possible. When you’re spring cleaning and purging and come across something you’re not sure is recyclable, just do a quick web search, and you’ll know in seconds.
Keep Your Momentum Moving Forward
Once you’ve finished spring cleaning, take a look and admire the fruits of your labor. Doesn’t it look nice? Doesn’t it feel nice? Deep cleaning, decluttering, and especially recycling don’t have to be once-a-year projects. You can keep that joy all year long if you use this as a stepping stone to begin new habits to keep the clutter from coming back.
Make Recycling Easy
Whether it’s the garage, pantry, or basement, designate an area in your home to collect the items to be recycled (or donated) and make emptying part of your household chores. Do you pass the recycling center on the way to the grocery store? Take the container of dead batteries with you and drop it off. They’re out of your way and won’t be polluting the environment. It’s a win-win situation.
Don’t Forget to Reduce & Reuse
Reduce, reuse, and recycle — we’ve all heard that a million times, because those three efforts are most impactful when they work together.
There are countless ways to reduce your consumption; it could be an article all by itself. But just to provide one actionable strategy, avoid products with unnecessary packaging. For example, does shampoo need a box, plastic wrapping, and hologram inserts all in addition to the bottle? Probably not. Give feedback to the companies who can improve, as well as the ones who are getting it right.
And make sure you’re reusing when you can. Clean with cloth rags instead of paper towels. Repurpose grocery bags as trash bags and save you a few dollars. In addition to locating the recycling options in your area, find the donation centers. If you don’t need it and it’s not worn out, there’s a good chance someone out there can make use of it.
Spring Cleaning + Recycling = The Ultimate Combo
The average American produces over 1,700 pounds of trash every year; about three times the global average. It’s a lot, but if everyone increased their recycling by 25%, that would be a huge swing in a positive direction. So this season, use spring cleaning as a springboard to up your recycling game, reduce your carbon footprint, and live a more green life.