I am NOT going to talk about how to recycle plastic or metal or paper. How boring! Plus you know how to do all that already, right? I want to tell you about the fun and quirky ways to recycle things like grass, leaves, food, your old computer, your old clothes and rain water. Now this is interesting !
If you are a baby boomer like me, you remember that when you were a kid your trash and everything used, old and unneeded went one place – into the kitchen garbage can. Then in the 1980s recycling laws started getting put into effect. Now the actual trash I throw away has got to be at least one quarter of what it was in the old days. It is amazing what I recycle now.
So here is my list of the wackier ways to recycle you may not know much about:
I started a composter bin in my backyard last spring to recycle my vegetable waste scraps into nutrient rich soil for my garden. It’s easy. I bought one of those large black compost bins for $50. Or you can buy a simpler one for $30, but you could just start one in a messy pile in your yard or build a simple wooden enclosure. I have a small covered bucket with a handle that I keep in the kitchen that I dump all my veggie scraps into, then take it outside. Composting has reduced my garbage considerably! Here is what goes into the composter: vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, some grass clippings and leaves. I stir it once and awhile and sprinkle a little water into it, and that’s it. Here is a good video on how to do it. What you get eventually is lots of very rich soil for your garden plantings.
Let Worms Eat Your Garbage
If you want to speed up your composting, and like live creepy crawlies, you can start a worm compost bin or vermicomposting. This is actually placed inside: in your kitchen, basement, garbage. You need to prepare a large plastic bin to put your veggie scraps into along with shredded newspaper and special red wiggler worms you need to buy. I’m not really ready to try this yet! But here is a video all about it, and a good web site. If you have kids, I bet they would love it!
Don’t Trash The Grass
By leaving your grass clippings on your lawn, you will add excellent natural fertilizer to your yard. They are a valuable addition to the soil. Grass clippings left in the lawn will decompose and provide nutrients to feed the turfgrass. Here is a good CT-DEP fact sheet all about it, and a short video and an excellent longer video about how to do it.
In the old days, I never used to know what to do with old electronics and would usually dump them in with my trash. But now there are many ways to recycle them. Most towns have a bulk pick-up day once a year dump day or you can take them to your town dump. Here is a list of which CT towns have them.
There are also various Connecticut store drop off locations for electronics of all kinds. Another way is to leave it on your curb with a sign that says something like “This works. Please take it.” It is amazing how quickly it will disappear. Also see below about Freecycle and Goodwill.
Freecycle is an international grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving and getting stuff for free in their own towns. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure! Everything posted on Freecycle is free; individuals and groups work out their own bartering systems. You could also sell your old electronics or anything on Craig’s List or on eBay if you think it still has a monetary value.
Take It To Goodwill
Many charities but especially Goodwill, Salvation Army or Habitat for Humanity, will take almost anything that is in reasonable condition: tools, pots and pans, clothing, toys, furniture, household goods, cutlery, utensils, appliances, electronics, books, linens and more such as this.
Reuse Rain Water…what ?
I never thought about recycling rain before, but it seems it is the new big thing! My town Bridgeport gives out free rain barrels, and I’m getting mine this spring. You hook it up to your gutter’s down spout and use the water for your garden and lawn. A plain one with attachments downspout diverter, spigot & tubing can be purchased for $60. Or you can buy one of those big blue plastic 55 Gal. drums for about $25 and buy connecting hardware yourself. Here is a video to show how to do it and some great tips on how to do it cheap and pretty.
Finally here are some more wacky ways you probably never heard of to recycle specific things:
CDs & DVDs
CD’s and DVD’s are made from various lacquers, aluminum and plastic that are bad for the landfill. Various organizations will recycle the materials in them. The recycling service is free, but you pay postage. Even broken ones will be accepted. If you wish to get rid of old CD’s with sensitive information on them, cut them up first. Mail discs to Back Thru The Future, a woman-owned electronics recycling company or to Green Disk or the CD Recycling Center.
Some packing peanuts are now made from vegetable starch. To test, toss one under water. If it disintegrates, you’ve got nontoxic, biodegradable peanuts. As for the non-recyclable styrofoam kind, you can take clean ones to any UPS Store or Mail Boxes Etc. store for recycling. Or here is a list of some other places in CT to bring them.
Drop off your old prescription eye glasses, or even non-prescription sunglasses at a LensCrafters store near you. LensCrafter’s charity, Give the Gift of Sight, provides free eyewear to under-privileged people around the world.
Turn in your old athletic shoes, any brand, to Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program so they can be ground up into new material and used in a different way to make new sports surfaces and playground surfacing.
Recycle your old Crocs by mailing them to Crocs in Colorado, and they will be shredded to make padding for children’s playgrounds. Gently worn shoes can also be donated to Soles4Souls which is a nonprofit organization that will clean them and distribute them worldwide to those in need.
Certain components of old cellular phones such as printed wiring boards, batteries and liquid crystal displays can pose a threat to the environment if improperly disposed of. Verizon Wireless retail stores accept phones in any condition from any service provider. The phones are either refurbished or recycled. With the funds raised from the sale of refurbished phones, Verizon donates wireless phones and airtime to victims of domestic violence.
FedEx, Kinko’s, and Staples accept used printer cartridges at their retail stores which they then recycle. Many toner and ink cartridges can be refilled and reused at least 6 times. Many retail stores will refill your cartridge or provide payment or credits when you recycle cartridges. Some companies such as Hewlett Packard provide recycling services for their own cartridges. These services often involve getting a prepaid envelope to mail cartridges directly back to the manufacturer.
Plastic Gocery Bags
Plastic grocery bags are recycled by many supermarkets like Stop and Shop, Whole Foods, and Wal-Mart if you take them to the store. And here is the ultimate recycle story told as The Life of a Plastic Bag… very funny yet poignant.
To find out where to recycle what in your Connecticut town, go to this terrific web site: Earth 911. Type in your location, and you can find out how to recycle a lot of things locally as well as what your town will take. And here at this CT DEP web site you will find more details on recycling in your CT town.
Finally also from the CT DEP is a list of everything you could possibly recycle in Connecticut and how to do it. I am sure there are lots more of these wacky ways to recycle specific items of trash. Do you know about one ?