We have a perfectly good baby crib in our basement. It’s been there well over a decade now. Because safety laws have changed we cannot donate it, but we don’t have the heart to just throw it away, sentencing it to a 1000 year purgatory in a landfill.
So there it sits.
I have a stack of empty printer toner cartridges ready to go to recycling. The manufacturer offers a recycling service. Just go to their website, enter the product number, and serial number. Print out the return label. Pack it up and drop it off at the post office. Easy! Except you have to do that for each individual cartridge, and ship them separately. How long is that going to take? How much more waste am I creating by shipping ten boxes when one will do? I’ll get to it, eventually.
So there they sit.
As with most curbside recycling services, ours does not accept plastic bags, or other soft plastics, because they clog the sorting machines and contaminate the other recyclables. We set the plastic bags aside in our garage. Then, when we have collected enough, drive them across town to a grocery store that accepts them. We’ll take them next time we’re in that neighborhood, which could be a while because we don’t shop there often.
So there they sit.
Our century home has wood siding which needs regular painting and care. We usually paint one or two sides every few years to space out the expense. When we are ready to dispose of our impressive collection of partially full paint cans, we have two choices. We can take them to our local household hazardous waste recycling center, which is open from 2:00 pm to 2:07 pm every other Wednesday in April, if the date is an odd number. I jokingly exaggerate, of course, but their hours and open season are very limited. Our other option is to buy cat litter. Fill each can. Then put it out in the trash. Time consuming either way.
Needless to say, there they sit.
Dead batteries? Miscellaneous electronics? We have boxes of those too.
Our family has significantly modified our purchasing habits over the last several years to buy items with less plastic, and fewer chemicals, which we hope would equate to less trash and waste. We look for items which are either sustainable or can be reused, repaired or donated. We are careful to look for products that are not built with forced obsolescence. But our waste-based economy, and the products it produces, are not designed or constructed in ways that encourage repair or safe disposal. Remember your grandmother’s refrigerator? It is probably still working after who knows how many decades.
In the US, the recycling and safe disposal markets have grown substantially, with many stores, companies and manufacturers now offering drop-off or mail-in services. But these services can be time-consuming and inconvenient for the customer, requiring research and effort. In many areas, recycling service are completely non-existent, leaving people no choice but to throw it in the trash.
If you are like us, we try our best to do what we feel is the responsible and conscientious thing, and not just throw an item away. To do that effectively and efficiently, we’ve found it has to become a lifestyle, until there is more demand and our markets can adapt.
In a country where many feel endless choice is a right, we are slowly making strides to improve the choice to do what is right.
Earth911 has a great search tool for recycling options in your area:
Call2Recycle offers a locator tool for battery and cellphone recycling:
Start your own recycling program with TerraCycle. There are fees, but you can recycle just about anything.
Costco, Office Depot and Staples offer toner cartridge recycling:
Ace Hardware, Lowes and Home Depot offer CFL light bulb, plastic bag, battery, and in some cases paint recycling. Call your local store for specifics.
Have usable baby supplies? Consider donating to your local women’s shelter.
Plastic bags can often be recycled at your local grocery store.
BestBuy offers a significant electronics and appliance recycling program:
Founder and Board President of Go Green Go