By Christine Flowers, Executive Director of Keep California Beautiful | Recycling shouldn’t be just a well-intentioned idea that is celebrated a couple times a year, it needs to be a way of life. Of course, at Keep California Beautiful, we believe that everyday should be a recycling day. Which is why we are urging all Californians to embrace America Recycles Day this November 15 and introduce recycling practices in their everyday lives.
America Recycles Day is a nationally recognized day, dedicated to encouraging and educating Americans to learn what materials are recyclable, make a habit of recycling these products whenever you can and buy products made out of recycled materials. We have found that one of the biggest recycling challenges faced by the public, is that many of our everyday products are not recognized as recyclable. So it is our personal mission to make sure we are informing everyone about the surprising number of products that can be given a second life.
The items that I am detailing are the ones that I have been questioned the most about their recycling capabilities. These items are ones that many don’t realize are recyclable but should be recycled and added into your daily recycling routine. So use this America Recycles Day to educate yourself and make sure you are recycling everything possible.
The most common misunderstood recyclable product is foam. This includes foam cups, food containers and packing. Yes, these product can be recycled and it is happening in many communities throughout California. In fact, foam is being recycled by businesses every day who turn it into beautiful picture frames and crown molding. Think about the large molded blocks used to package electronics, such as TVs and computers. You probably have some of this sitting around in your garage now, and with the holidays coming up, you will have more. Well, now you know it can be recycled. So can foam cups, as well as egg cartons and “clamshell” take-out containers. Foam can be recycled in some California cities’ curbside recycling bins or at neighborhood drop-off facilities, so check with your local waste hauler or recycler to see where you can recycle your foam.
Batteries are used in everyday items – from the single-use batteries found in toys, flashlights, remote controls, smoke alarms and some handheld gaming systems to the rechargeable batteries in many common electronics. But, over time, batteries will lose their charge and should be disposed of properly. Thousands of municipalities and retailers, such as The Home Depot, RadioShack, Lowe’s, Staples and Best Buy, make responsible collection and recycling of batteries convenient, free and easy. In 2012, residents’ recycling efforts made California the first state to collect over 1 million pounds of batteries. And, with over 2,000 collection locations statewide, it’s easy to do your part on America Recycles Day, and every day.
Clothes hangers are another product people often question on their recyclability. And because of that, some eight billion hangers go into landfills every year. To put that into perspective, that’s enough to fill nearly five Empire State Buildings. Hangers are not accepted in all recycling systems, so make sure to check with your local collection agency to see if your plastic and metal hangers are allowed in your recycling bin. Or, instead of throwing them away, take them back to the dry cleaners or donate them to your favorite thrift store.
Finally, another misunderstood recyclable product is plastic bags. Plastic bags are recycled into composite lumber, but can actually become a wide variety of products after they’re recycled. Drop-off locations and curbside pick-up programs for these plastics, including other film plastics such as case wrap from beverages and paper products, and dry cleaning bags, are available all over the country, including your local grocery store.
Simply put, these are all items that we see and use every day, and they should be recycled. So get the facts, and then get started on your own recycling plan. Make recycling a way of life for you and your family. And don’t just do it this America Recycles Day; do it every day of the year.
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