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How to Recycle Anything

An A-to-Z guide of what can be tossed into which bin.

By Natalie Ermann Russell
Recycle old items James Baigrie

 

D

DVDs, CDs, and jewel cases: If you want to get rid of that Lionel Richie CD because “Dancing on the Ceiling” doesn’t do it for you anymore, you can swap it for a disc from another music lover at zunafish.com. But if you just want to let it go and not worry about it ending up in a landfill, send it (along with DVDs and jewel cases) to greendisk.com for recycling.


E

Empty metal cans (cleaning products): Cut off the metal ends of cans containing powdered cleansers, such as Ajax and Bon Ami, and put them in with other household metals. (Use care when cutting them.) Recycle the tubes as you would any other cardboard.


Empty metal cans (food products): Many towns recycle food cans. If yours doesn’t, you can find the nearest steel-can recycling spot at recycle-steel.org. Rinse out cans, but don’t worry about removing the labels. “Leaving them on doesn’t do any harm,” says Marti Matsch, the communications director of Eco-Cycle, one of the nation’s oldest and largest recyclers, in Boulder, Colorado. “When the metal is melted,” she says, “the paper burns up. If you want to recycle the label with other paper, that’s great, but it’s not necessary.”


Eyeglasses: Plastic frames can’t be recycled, but metal ones can. Just drop them into the scrap-metal bin. However, given the millions of people who need glasses but can’t afford them, your frames, broken or not, will go to better use if you donate them to neweyesfortheneedy.com (sunglasses and plastic frames in good condition can also be donated). Or drop off old pairs of glasses at LensCrafters, Target Optical, or other participating stores and doctors’ offices, which will send them to onesight.org.

 

F

Fake plastic credit cards: They’re not recyclable, so you can’t just toss them along with their paper junk-mail solicitations. Remove them first and throw them in the trash.


Film canisters: Check with your local recycling center to find out if it takes gray film-container lids (No. 4) and black bases (No. 2). If not, many photo labs will accept them.


Fire extinguishers: There are two types of extinguishers. For a dry-chemical extinguisher, safely relieve the remaining pressure, remove the head from the container, and place it with your bulk-metal items (check with your local recycler first). Alternatively, call fire-equipment companies and request that they dispose of your extinguisher. Carbon dioxide extinguishers are refillable after each use.


Food processors. Some communities accept small household appliances for recycling―if not in curbside collection, then in drop-off locations. (New York City will even pick up appliances left on the sidewalk.) “If an appliance is more than 50 percent metal, it is recyclable,” says Kathy Dawkins, director of public information for New York City’s Department of Sanitation. Most appliances are about 75 percent steel, according to the Steel Recycling Institute. So unless you know something is mostly plastic, it will probably qualify.


Formal wear: Finally, a use for that mauve prom or bridesmaid dress: Give it to a girl who can’t afford one (go to operationfairydust.org or catherinescloset.org).

 

G

Gadgets: There are many ways to recycle PDAs, MP3 players, and other devices so that any money earned from the parts goes to worthy causes―a win, win, win scenario (for you, the environment, and charity). Recycleforbreastcancer.org, for example, will send you prepaid shipping labels, recycle your gadgets, then donate the proceeds to breast cancer charities.


Glue: Many schools have recycling programs for empty containers of Elmer’s glue and glue sticks. Students and teachers rinse out the bottles, which are then sent to Wal-Mart for recycling. Find out more at elmersgluecrew.com.


Glue strips and inserts in magazines: Lotion samples and nonpaper promotional items affixed to glue strips in magazines should be removed because they can jam up recycling equipment (scented perfume strips, on the other hand, are fine). “One of the biggest challenges we get is pages of promotional stickers and stamps,” says Matsch, “which can adhere to the machinery and tear yards of new paper fiber.”

 
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