What to Recycle

Here are some simple tips on what can be recycled.

What to recycle – Aluminum

One of the most simple and easy item to recycle is aluminum.

You can start with collecting empty soda and beer cans at home and at the office. Especially during parties, a lot of these cans may be accumulated and all you need to do is to empty them completely and gather them in a huge garbage bag.

Once there are about four to five such bags full of aluminum cans, you can take them to an aluminum recycling center near your place, weigh them and get paid accordingly.

Similarly, school and college-going children can be encouraged to collect empty and used aluminum cans at school.

The entire campus can have two or three recycling bins for the used aluminum cans. Such practices at school can help generate additional revenues for the school and help students cultivate the habit of recycling from an early age.

The best part about recycling aluminum is that any form of aluminum is recyclable, and for infinite number of times!

Here’s what to recycle for aluminum:

  • Aluminum drink cans
  • Aluminum caps and lids
  • Aluminum foil
  • Scrap aluminum like spare parts of vehicles like cars and bikes, lawn chairs, window frames and pots
  • To save water, you only need to clean enough to prevent odors. The high temperature of metal processing deals easily with contamination.
  • Metal coated plastic film, often used for snack packets or sweet wrappers, may look like aluminum but they are not recyclable. Use the scrunch test to check whether these wrappers are made of aluminum foil. If the wrapper springs back when scrunched in the hand it is not aluminum, and hence not recyclable!

It is much simpler and cost effective to recycle aluminum and reuse it, rather than manufacture aluminum from the raw material. Less energy is used, and the cost is lower. So there is definitely a market for recycling aluminum.

Besides the cost efficiency, recycling used aluminum (eg. drink cans) also helps to reduce the amount of aluminum being sent to the landfills, and contributes towards building a safer and cleaner environment on earth.

So don’t wonder anymore about what to recycle. Start with your aluminum cans right now!

Read more about how aluminum is recycled.

What to recycle – Paper

Another very popular and easy product to recycle is paper.

Paper has been one of the first products to be successfully recycled and the benefits of recycling paper has been understood everywhere in the world and is today one of the most successful revenue-generating business.

Billions and trillions of tons of paper is consumed all over the world on a daily basis and an equal amount is junked or wasted on a daily basis. What is most unfortunate is the fact that only close to 30% of used paper is recycled and the rest ends up as solid waste and occupies acres of landfill space all over the globe.

If you were to examine these figures closely, you will see that there is a lot of opportunity here for people to step in making this a successfully money making venture.

Recycled paper is popular and is used extensively for various purposes like making cardboard or packing material which is in demand everywhere on a daily basis.

Even if you are not setting up a recycling business, you can still play a significant part in the recycling value chain by sending your paper recyclables for recycling.

The paper that you collect can be sold to your nearest paper recycling center. And you may even get paid for every pound or kilogram of paper sold. And you will help save energy, water, and above all, the trees and the environment!

Here’s what to recycle for paper:

  • Newspapers
  • Magazine
  • Phone books
  • Junk mail
  • Cardboard boxes (eg. shoe boxes)
  • Paper packaging that is not soiled by food materials
  • Paper envelopes with plastic windows
  • Printed paper at home or office that is unwanted
  • Corrugated cardboard, or shipping and packaging boxes that are identifiable a squiggly layer of paper sandwiched between sheets

The “Don’t-s” of what to recycle for paper:

  • While almost all paper can be recycled today, although some types are harder to recycle than others.
  • Papers coated with plastic or aluminium foil, and papers that are waxed, pasted, or gummed are usually expensive to recycle, and hence usually not recycled.
  • Examples include: stickers, carbon paper, laminated paper (eg. fast food wraps, drink boxes, foil), neon paper, thermal fax paper. These are usually not accepted.
  • Napkins, tissues, or any wet or food stained paper are also not accepted.
  • Also, some paper mills cannot accept glossy inserts, because these inserts have a heavy clay coating.

Now that you know what to recycle for paper, don’t hesitate anymore. Start recycling with the pile of unwanted paper on your desk!

Read more about how is paper recycled.

What to recycle – Clothes

Recycling clothes also is an excellent way to earn some extra money because clothes are products that are consumed and purchased on a regular basis.

People invest a lot of money on clothes but ultimately, they end up getting junked because they don’t fit well, fashion trends keep changing or there’s simply no room to keep old clothes.

If you are looking at doing something for your community, why not create a platform for people in your community to come together to exchange their clothes. Such practices are known as recycling clothes via swapping, and are becoming increasingly popular. You may even get to earn a little cash from this, if you are creative!

People should never throw away your unwanted clothes, especially if they can still be worn. So do send your old or unwanted clothes for recycling, because recycling companies can use them to make picture frames, blankets, stuffing material for packing fragile items.

Alternatively, you can donate your clothes to charity organizations, who may then distribute the clothes to the poor in your community or in other countries.

And that’s not all on what to recycle, whether to save the environment or to earn some cash. Read on!

Read more about how are clothes recycled.

What to recycle – Glass

Just like paper and aluminum, glass in any shape and form can be recycled.

Collecting glass bottles at home and selling them at the nearest glass recycling agency can be an excellent source of revenue because manufacturing glass is one of the most cumbersome and expensive businesses.

Recycling glass is much easier and cost effective. Therefore, it makes a lot of business sense to use recycled glass rather than manufacture glass from raw materials.

If you invest a little time and effort to clean your used glass bottles, collect them without breaking them, and sell them at your nearby glass recycling agency, you can earn some cash in return.

Here’s what to recycle for glass:

  • Beer or wine bottles made of glass
  • Glass jars
  • Glass sheet from old photo frames
  • Also note that broken glass is hard to sort, so it is ideal to keep the glass recyclables unbroken.
  • Glass is normally color sorted for recycling. So you can help by sorting out your glass recyclables before sending them to the collection centres. Clear glass is most valuable.
  • To save water, you only need to clean enough to prevent odors. The high temperature of glass processing deals easily with contamination.

The “Don’t-s” of what to recycle for glass:

  • Light bulbs, pyrex, ceramics and mirrors usually not accepted.
  • Ceramics contaminate glass and are hard to separate from glass. So try to separate glass from ceramics before sending your glass recyclables for recycling.

Do your part, look out for what to recycle at home and office now!

Read more about how is glass recycled.

What to recycle – Plastic

Recycling plastic is more of a necessity rather than anything else.

The large amount of plastic the world produces and then dump every minute is simply too much, and soon, our planet will run out of landfill space.

Plastics are also not biodegradable and it takes thousands for years for plastic to disintegrate and decompose. They pollute the environment whether they are buried or burnt in incinerators.

Therefore, plastic consumption must be reduced considerably and when consumed only recyclable plastic must be used.

In some areas, refunds can be obtained by returning used plastic bottles to retailers for recycling. So if you live in such areas, recycling your plastic bottles is an effective way of saving money. At the same time, you also contribute in a big way to the planet!

So here’s what to recycle for plastic:

  • Plastic drink bottles
  • Plastic shampoo or detergent bottles
  • Plastic vitamin bottles
  • Plastics need to sorted by their type before they can be recycled. Hence, you can help by sorting your plastic recyclables before sending them for recycling. Look out for the recycling codes that are usually molded into the bottom of the containers.
  • Padded bubble envelopes, as most of this gets mixed with sawdust to make plastic wood.
  • Plastic bags that are made from type 2 or 4 plastic. These bags can be made into plastic lumber. But collection is not particularly profitable, so it may be better to reduce their use first, and then recycle them if needed.

The “Don’t-s” of recycling plastic:

  • Some recycling centers are selective about the type of plastics collected, for example some will only accept those plastics labeled with the PETE 1 and HDPE 2 symbols. So you may need to check with your local plastic collection centre. If you can't identify the type of plastic, it may be safer not to include them.
  • Even a small amount of the wrong type of plastic can ruin a melt.
  • Plastic caps are usually made from a different type of plastic from the bottle - toss if unmarked.

Read more about how plastics are recycled.

What to recycle - Styrofoam

Styrofoam is non bio-degradable. So that means that a Styrofoam coffee cup that you throw away today will still remain in the landfill 500 years later.

Given the harm that Styrofoam does to the environment, in recent times, more and more organizations are finding ways to recycle and re-use Styrofoam.

Nevertheless, there are difficulties inherent in recycling Styrofoam.. As such, the best thing to do is not to use Styrofoam at all, but to find other alternatives.

What to recycle – Furniture and other Wooden Products

Recycle your old furniture when you decide to go for new ones. This is because most furniture consist of wood, metal, and leather or cloth, all of which can be recycled and/or reused.

If your old furniture is in a usable condition and can be resold, you must try to send it for recycling. These wooden materials can be reused by carpenters, builders, and wooden-product manufacturers.

For example, wooden pallets derived from recycled furniture and other wooden products can be used for building chicken coops, bird houses etc. When painted and polished, they can look as good as new.

Recycling these furniture will help reduce landfill space needed, as well as reducing the number of trees that are fell for timber and wood. Earn a little cash for yourself while you do your part for the environment!

So do add unwanted furniture to your list of what to recycle at home now!

Read more about how wood is recycled.

What to recycle – Metallic Products

When we talk about recycling drives for metal, usually we refer to aluminum and steel recycling.

For the more valuable metals such as copper, gold, silver and brass, their values are more widely recognized and hence, they are usually already sent for recycling.

There is a huge market for recyclable metals.

Most metals are recyclable and can be used in manufacturing other products like parts of vehicles, ships, tankers etc. Hence recycling iron, copper, and brass products can be extremely profitable.

Depending on the type of metal, recycling agencies will pay differently per pound or kilogram of metal being sold.

For example, copper and brass products might be purchased at a much higher rate than iron and steel. Thus, it makes perfect business sense to collect recyclable metal products, separate them based on the type of metal and sell them to these agencies.

Scrap metal can be divided into two types: ferrous and nonferrous.

Ferrous metals include scrap iron and steel. Due to its magnetic properties, ferrous metals are easy to recover even from unsorted and residual waste.

Nonferrous metals refer to metals other than iron and steel. Examples of nonferrous scrap include aluminum, copper, lead, zinc, nickel, titanium, cobalt, chromium, and precious metals. Nonferrous metals tend to worth more than ferrous ones however.

Here’s what to recycle for metals:

  • kitchen knives,
  • steel or other metallic screws
  • metallic parts of vehicles and bicycles
  • metallic parts in children’s toys, household appliances
  • metal food packaging and other metallic containers
  • steel beams, railroad tracks and ships

One good news is that metals can be recycled indefinitely without loosing any of their properties.

Read more about how metals are recycled.

What to recycle – Used Computers and other Electronic Devices

In this era of the internet and instant telecommunications, computers and their related gadgets, including CDs and DVDs, PDAs, Tablets, cell phones, etc, are found almost everywhere – in offices, at home, at shopping malls, in cabs, on you and I.

Not only are these gadgets everywhere (imagine how many there are in our environment), they are also being replaced very rapidly, in view of the rapid technological developments.

It is especially crucial, not only because of their large numbers and the fact that many valuable materials can be reclaimed and reused, but also because of the high potential harm they pose to the environment if not disposed of properly.

Many materials used in the construction of computer hardware can be recovered in the recycling process for use in future production.

This is because computer components contain valuable elements and substances, such as gold, lead and copper that can be reclaimed.

Other substances like aluminium, iron, silicon, tin and some types of plastics are also present in bulk in computers and can be reused in constructing new computer systems, hence helping to reduce cost in manufacture.

Old computers also contain many toxic substances, such as dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), cadmium, chromium, radioactive isotopes, and mercury. A typical computer monitor may contain more than 6% lead by weight, much of which is in the lead glass of the cathode ray tube (CRT). In turn, circuit boards contain substantial amounts of lead-tin solders that can be leached into underground water to cause water pollution, or pollute the air through incineration. Cell phones contain lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic. These are harmful substances we will never want in our water systems and air.

So, if you are wondering what to recycle, recycling old computers and cell phones is something you must think about. Not forgetting your unwanted CDs and DVDs.

Read more about how old computers and cell phones are recycled. Also, find out more about the recycling process for CDs and DVDs.

What to recycle – Biodegradable waste

Biodegradable waste refers to waste that usually originates from plant or animal sources, and which can be broken down by living organisms.

Examples of biodegradable waste include garden and kitchen food waste.

You can recycle biodegradable waste by composting.

With composting, natural aerobic bacteria break down the waste into fertile topsoil. In fact, you can do this at home and reduce the need to purchase fertilizer for your garden. In some communities, green-waste collection programmes also exist. Communities with these programmes can then sell the fertile topsoil produced for extra cash.

Where these biodegradable waste are simply dumped into landfills, they will be broken down under uncontrolled anaerobic conditions, and the gases released in the process will escape into the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. One of these gases released include methane, a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

What to recycle – Batteries

To recycle batteries, they need to be sorted out into similar types first, because different types of batteries involve different recycling processes.

Some older batteries may contain mercury and cadmium, which are harmful substances which must be handled with care.

In fact, in many places, the proper disposal of used batteries is mandated by law, because of their potential harm to the environmental. Unfortunately, this mandate can be difficult to enforce, especially if the community is not educated on its importance.

You may wish to check with your local authorities how your used batteries can be safely disposed off, or sent for recycling.

Read more about how batteries are recycled.

What to recycle – Concrete

Believe or not, concrete can be recycled.

Concrete aggregate collected from demolition sites can be put through crushing machines, producing smaller pieces of concrete that can be used as gravel for new construction projects.

Crushed concrete can also be used as for the production of new concrete, provided it is free of contaminants. Recycling concrete reduces the need for rocks to be dug up, in turn saving trees and habitats.

Read more about how you can recycle concrete.

Make recycling your habit

Recycling can become a habit.

The key is for you to learn about what to recycle with your local recycling agency, then make a habit to look for recyclable materials when you go shopping, and set aside the unwanted recyclables for recycling.

In this way, recycling becomes a part of you, rather than a chore.

Then not only will you be able to generate streams of income through recycling, you are also contributing in a large way to the environment and our precious earth. It’s a win-win!

One last thing to remember though. Unless you buy recycled products and complete the recycling circle , you are not really recycling.

Start today, before it is too late!

More tips on recycling

Read about what tips on recycling contributed by other readers.

Also, if you have recycling experiences of your own, tell us what you think is the most useful tip on recycling that others can benefit from.


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