7 of the Best Tips to Help You Take Charge of Your E-Waste

Over the last several decades, electronics have become a cornerstone of modern living. With such widespread use of computers, mobile phones, televisions, and other devices, the waste management and recycling industries have had to handle an influx of e-waste. Though electronics provide many benefits to consumers, these products can be dangerous when sent to landfills because they are rife with toxic components such as lead and mercury.

As we all build up our collections of electronics, it is crucial that we look towards the end of each product’s life. We must make every effort to organize and dispose of our e-waste in ways that will be beneficial to all. There are a number of things that you can do to manage your e-waste, including the following:

  1. Find a recycling program that fits your needs

electronic wasteCorporate and community recycling programs alike can assist you when you are looking to recycle various types of e-waste. You should start by familiarizing yourself with the options that are available locally. Many municipalities operate recycling facilities or other drop-off sites that focus solely on e-waste. Before taking your electronics to these locations, however, you should match them to your town’s online list of reputable e-waste disposal programs to ensure that your electronics go to the right place.

Otherwise, you should consider participating in one of the many trade-in programs that prominent electronics companies run. For example, with cell phones, you can participate in programs through providers such as T-Mobile, which will accept your used device once you upgrade to a new one and compensate you for your trade-in.

If you are looking to safely dispose of other electronics, then you should look into recycling initiatives at some of the most prominent tech giants. Sony, for example, operates a Takeback Program that accepts used televisions and batteries at numerous drop-off locations. Others, like Best Buy, will gladly recycle products from any electronics retailer.

  1. Consider donating

Though you may no longer have any need for your e-waste, there are countless individuals throughout the community that can benefit from it. As such, you should consider donating your old devices instead of sending them to the landfill. There are a number of non-profits that will reuse your electronics. One such organization, InterConnection, repairs donated computers and gives them to those in need. The non-profit also regularly presents refurbished electronics to schools that use them to establish computer labs for students.

Computer retailer Dell also runs an initiative that allows you to responsibly dispose of your used computers. Called Dell Reconnect, this program encourages participants to bring their devices to any affiliate Goodwill location in the United States. The organization will either recycle these goods or repair them for reuse.

  1. Upgrade before recycling

In some cases, your electronics may only need a few updates to feel like new. Before you decide between recycling or throwing them away, you should determine whether you could instead swap out any of their internal components. By updating your computer with more RAM, you can easily prolong its life. To this end, you should also look into enhancing your desktop devices with new graphics cards or storage capacity.

  1. Don’t buy new

Though it is always exciting to buy the newest electronics, you should always think twice before disposing of your e-waste and bringing home a more recent model from the store. Instead, you should consider “precycling,” a waste management term that refers to the practice of avoiding products that will create unnecessary waste at the end of their lives.

When you are considering making a new electronics purchase, you should therefore determine whether you truly need the product or not. If you do, then you should do your research to find one that will last the longest amount of time. Otherwise, you should refrain from chasing the newest versions of your favorite devices. Instead, use your electronics for as long as you can before investing in new ones.

  1. Sell old electronics

old electronicsAnother way to make sure that your e-waste finds new life is to sell it. Whether you are looking to get rid of old electronics at home or at the office, you can easily find a new home for them by putting them up for sale on websites such as eBay and Craigslist.

These marketplaces allow you to set the price of your gadgets, thereby affording you the opportunity to make more money than you would by simply trading them in. By selling your e-waste, you will also be providing electronics to those who need them more than you do.

  1. Conduct regular e-waste audits

In order to stay on top of the e-waste that you produce, you must regularly organize the devices that you and your family use. By completing regular electronics audits, you will be able to glean which items you already have so that you do not make the mistake of buying more than one of the same thing. If you find pieces of e-waste during your review, then you should set aside a day for recycling. Better yet, make it a bi-annual practice to organize and dispose of your e-waste.

  1. Erase your data

Whatever you decide to do with your old electronics, it is crucial that you remove any personal information that could fall into the wrong hands. You should start by backing up any potentially important data onto a separate hard drive or USB device. Then, you must begin the process of erasing information so that no one can recover it. With PCs, you will need special software to overwrite the data. For Apple users, this process only requires you to access the Disk Utility program.

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What are the Best Apps for Recycling?

These days, mobile phones are good for so much more than keeping in contact with others. Since the advent of mobile applications, individuals can use their devices learn about new topics, play games, and engage in other activities. In recent years, there has even been in influx of apps that help make it easier to live sustainably.

One particular area of focus has been recycling. Numerous companies and municipalities have released apps that help connect individuals to the resources that they need to enhance their recycling capabilities.

Here are a few of the best recycling apps available today:

iRecycle

I RecycleEarth911 developed its iRecycle app to teach United States users about how and where to recycle in their local area. Available for both iOS and Android devices, the app makes recycling more convenient than ever by providing more than 1.5 million ways for consumers to recycle or repurpose hundreds of materials.

Additionally, users can employ iRecycle’s search feature to find recycling centers or initiatives that are close to their current locations. In addition to these services, the app has also incorporated a section for articles that keep consumers up-to-date with the latest recycling information.

Happen

happn logoAvailable to the residents of Charlotte, North Carolina, Happen is creating a more sustainable community by providing the resources that locals need to conserve resources and recycle. To help “make good things happen,” the app connects individuals with various green actions and events that they can join.

Through Happen, locals can also network with one another and participate in challenges to benefit the environment. Those who participate in green activities with Happen will receive rewards for their efforts. Users can also share their progress to their social media accounts.

RecycleNation

recyclenation logoPreviously known as 1800Recycling, RecycleNation helps make connections between individuals and the recycling centers that take their various materials. The app has combined all of the most common recyclables into more than a dozen umbrella categories, which makes searching for various items a breeze. With this feature, users can create recycling lists and learn how they can safely dispose of each recyclable.

RecycleNation also employs location services to help individuals find all the drop-off locations that are near them or search for specific facilities. Using all of these features, the app hopes to simplify recycling so as to encourage more individuals to participate.

Trash Chaos

trashchaosapplogoThose who wish to teach their children about the importance of living sustainably should look no further than Trash Chaos. Available only for iOS devices, this “edutainment” app allows children ages 7 and older to enjoy 24 levels of gameplay that are interwoven with information about recycling and waste management.

During the game, children play as part of a group called the Yogome Squad, which must defeat Evil Queen Ignorantia. She and her army of Ignarus are attempting to pollute the planet with trash, but the player can overcome them by separating paper, plastic, and organic items into their designated recycling containers as they fly across the screen. At the end of every level, Trash Chaos displays a slide that supplies players with interesting recycling facts.

Recyclebank

recyclebanklogoWith more than 10,000 installs, the iOS and Android-enabled Recyclebank has become the go-to app for those who are looking to make recycling more exciting. Through this outlet, users can easily schedule and create reminders for basic recycling activities such as bulk collection, drop offs, and weekly pickup days.

However, the most beneficial aspect of Recyclebank lies in its rewards program. In order to incentivize the recycling process, the app allows its users to accumulate points for each time they recycle. Recyclebank has even established a number of “rewards milestones” that users can work towards. As they build up points, they can see exactly how many they have and determine which rewards they obtain. With their Recyclebank points, users can cash them out for gift cards and discounts at various eateries, supermarkets, and other merchants.

Gimme 5

gimme5logoSince its debut in 2014, the Gimme 5 app has assisted those who are looking to recycle any of the number 5 plastics, or polypropylenes. The app provides users with a detailed list of number 5 plastics, so they can determine which items belong in this group and which do not. Moreover, Gimme 5 can also guide its users to local recycling locations that accept number 5 plastics.

As they recycle, individuals can monitor their progress and see how they are doing in comparison to others in their community. They can also earn rewards points that they can later redeem through Recyclebank.

Recycling Track Systems

RTSlogoFor those living in New York, local waste management technology firm Recycling Track Systems has developed an innovative application that eases the process of recycling and waste removal. Designed specifically for businesses, the app allows users to arrange for on-demand pickup by completing a few simple steps.

After inputting the pickup location, businesses can select from a list of various items, including industrial appliances and furniture. As they add different items to their pickup list, businesses can upload photographs and other information that assist during collection. Otherwise, users can choose the “Just Take It All” option and have Recycling Track Systems retrieve any item that they need to dispose of. With these steps complete, they need only select a retrieval date and time. Each pickup order comes with clear-cut pricing and invoices to help users keep track of recycling expenses.

What Happens to Materials During the Recycling Process?

If you recycle on a regular basis, then you understand the steps that you must take to get materials from your home to the recycling bin. But what happens to your glass, metals, and plastics once collectors take them away? Though you may never witness it, each material undergoes a unique process to ensure that it can once again re-enter the product stream as new items. Read on to take a closer look at five of the most common recyclables and what happens to them during the recycling process:

Plastic

plastic beverage cupUpon arrival at the recycling facility, workers wash plastics to remove any labeling or other possible contaminants. Next, the facility sorts each type of plastic into a separate category. For example, all PET plastics—such as water bottles—go into a group of their own. After isolating each plastic type, the facility breaks each material down into smaller pieces. To this end, they load the plastics into shredding machines that tear them into flakes or chips.

Next, the facility heats the pieces until they melt and then reshapes them into small pellets or fibers. The final step involves sending these recycled plastics to manufacturers who use them to create brand-new products, such as furniture, insulation, and carpeting.

Glass

glass containersAfter consumers place their glass recyclables for collection or bring them to recycling plants themselves, workers begin the process of organizing these materials by color. Some facilities may, however, skip this step by requiring local consumers to pre-sort their glass into groups of clear, brown, and green containers.

Recycling workers then wash all separated glass pieces to rid them of debris and run them through special machinery that compresses them into a material called cullet. After combining this substance with limestone, sand, and soda ash, workers place the entire mixture into a furnace for melting. Recycling plants can use the resulting material to create new containers or other glass products. The durability of glass makes it possible to repeat the recycling process an infinite number of times.

Metal

metalAll metals typically fall into one of two categories: ferrous (combinations of carbon and iron) and non-ferrous. The former group consists of materials such as iron, wrought iron, and steel. The latter contains aluminum, copper, and tin, as well as precious metals like silver and gold. Most recycling centers process non-ferrous metals, many of which originate in the homes of consumers. However, iron and steel top the list of the world’s most recycled materials. This is due to how easy it is to get these materials from demolished buildings and scrap yards. In fact, almost 40 percent of all crude steel production uses recycled steel products.

Once the metals arrive at the recycling facility, workers separate them by category using specialized magnets. After inspecting each item to determine its quality, they wash the metals using water or chemicals to rid them of their paint and any protective coatings. Facility workers then shred the metal items and feed the pieces into designated furnaces for melting. When these materials reach a liquid state, workers pour them into molds that will allow them to cool into an oblong-shaped block called an ingot. The recycling process ends when workers transform these ingots into large, malleable sheets of metal and send them to manufacturers for reuse.

Paper

paperWhen consumers place their paper recyclables into their curbside bins, collectors transport them to the local recycling facility, where workers sort them into different groups depending on their grade and type. The paper must then enter the “pulping” stage, during which time workers filter it through a mill. As it combines with water, the paper separates from any glue, ink, or other non-paper elements and transforms into a slurry-like material. Recycling workers then process this pulp several more times to fully prepare it for reuse. During this step, they can also add in various elements that will turn the pulp into different types of paper, like cardboard. They then use the paper slurry to create large sheets, which they let dry before rolling and shipping them off to their final destination.

E-waste

old phoneIn order to prevent old mobile phones, computers, and other electronics from ending up in landfills, recycling centers must send these items must undergo numerous recycling steps. This process begins when the facility sorts each electronic item and separates it from its battery components. Workers must then begin taking each electronic apart by hand, a step that involves retrieving the most important parts and classifying each one by type. In some cases, certain components, such as circuit boards and batteries, must go to special processing facilities.

After dismantling, facility workers must break down any item that people cannot easily re-use into pieces that are no larger than 2 inches. Recycling facilities require these e-waste pieces to go through another step of disassembly, which ensures the removal of all dust particles. After further separating of materials using magnets, water, or a combination of both, facilities then send the salvaged items off for reuse. Metal components such as tin and copper go to smelting facilities that safely recycle them.

7 Major Companies with the Most Innovative Recycling Programs

There is no doubt that recycling is a team effort. While individuals are taking extra steps to reduce, reuse, and recycle the products they use every day, businesses must do the same. A number of major international companies are already doing their part with recycling initiatives that allow them to both recycle their own products and keep other items out of the waste stream. From electronics giants to famous apparel brands, here are seven of the most notable companies with innovative recycling programs:

  1. Dell

Dell logoLooking to target the issue of e-waste, Dell has created a policy that enables its customers to dispose of their old electronics in a safe, environmentally friendly way. The company will accept and recycle any of its branded items. Those who have non-Dell electronics may also submit them for recycling, but only if they then purchase one of the company’s branded products. Consumers may drop off their items at affiliate Goodwill locations or mail them to the company with a free shipping label.

Dell’s unique e-waste recycling initiatives do not stop there, however. Through a partnership with the National Cristina Foundation, the company connects customers with charities and schools that could benefit from used electronics. Dell also operates a printer supplies recycling program that allows individuals to bring old printer cartridges to Dell Reconnect sites or Staples office supply stores for safe disposal.

  1. Method

Though known primarily for its line of cleaning products, Method has made a new name for itself in the realm of recycling. The company is looking to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the ocean by working with groups who remove plastic from Hawaii’s shores and recycling these materials into eco-friendly bottles. In collaboration with Envision Plastics, Method has developed its innovative Ocean Plastic 2-in-1 Dish + Hand Soap bottle, which uses both ocean plastic and other post-consumer materials. These biodegradable bottles are the first of their kind to use ocean plastic as their main component.

  1. Crayola

crayola logoSince initiating the ColorCycle program, Crayola has worked to reuse old art supplies and teach children about the importance of recycling. Any K-12 school may take part in the initiative, which invites students to collect old Crayola markers and send them back to the company. Crayola provides prepaid, printable shipping labels, so schools can participate in the initiative for free. The company uses the returned markers to make a clean-burning fuel. Educators can also use Crayola’s specially designed lesson plans to teach their students about recycling and environmental sustainability.

  1. Nike

Nike is shrinking its environmental impact by transforming old sneakers into a new material called Nike Grind. Made of recycled polyester and other reused substances, this new, sustainable material is now used in nearly three-quarters of all Nike products. In addition, the company uses Nike Grind to create durable running tracks, tennis courts, and other surface coverings. Those looking to support Nike in their sustainability efforts may participate by donating their old, worn-out shoes through the company’s Reuse-A-Shoe program.

  1. Levi’s

Levi's LogoFamed retailer Levi’s is working with clothing collection firm I:CO to offer a one-of-a-kind recycling garment program. People who wish to dispose of their old clothing and footwear—whether Levi’s brand or not—may take their unwanted items to any of the company’s U.S. stores. In return for their donation, they receive a coupon that awards them 20 percent off their next Levi’s store purchase. I:CO then collects the used clothing and shoes and prepares them for recycling if they cannot be reused.

  1. Adidas

Another company that is tackling ocean plastic pollution is Adidas. The company has made a huge recycling impact thanks to a partnership with Parley for the Oceans, which recovers plastic from the sea. With the help of the organization, Adidas has developed a line of sustainable footwear called the Parley series. As of May 2017, the line includes three versions of the company’s UltraBoost shoe, which is made of reclaimed ocean plastic. By the end of the year, Adidas hopes to manufacture one million of these shoes. With each UltraBoost shoe requiring 11 bottles to make, this would help remove 11 million bottles from the ocean.

The Parley series is far from Adidas’ first sustainable venture. In the past, the company has created smaller, limited product lines made of recycled polyester. Adidas also previously used recovered ocean plastic in their soccer uniforms.

  1. Brita

In collaboration with Haws and TerraCycle, Brita has made it easier than ever for its customers to recycle their used water bottles and filters. Once they’ve collected five pounds of old Brita products, people can pack them in a box, print out a complimentary shipping label, and mail them to TerraCycle for safe recycling. The company recycles the Brita products into new plastic items, such as outdoor seating and watering cans. The materials in the Brita filters are converted into energy.

7 of the Most Sustainable Alternatives to Plastic

Plastics are all around us, inside nearly every product that we come into contact with in our daily lives. Manufacturers favor this material because it can last for years and is easy to mold into practically any form. Despite these benefits, however, plastic can also harm the environment. Not only is it created from fossil fuels, but it is also difficult to recycle much of the time. As a result, researchers have begun to develop sustainable alternatives that will reduce our dependence on traditional plastic. Read on to learn more about seven of the best plastic substitutes.

  1. Liquid wood

A unique type of biopolymer (also known as bioplastic), liquid wood offers both the appearance and function of traditional plastic, but without the harmful environmental effects. The base of this material is lignin, a byproduct that comes from paper mills. To create liquid wood, manufacturers take lignin and combine it with water before placing it in an environment with extreme heat and pressure. This transforms the lignin into a composite substance that is flexible enough for the manufacturer to form into any shape, but also highly durable. Already, scientists from Germany have used liquid wood to create children’s toys and containers for speakers.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of liquid wood, however, is that it is completely biodegradable. It is also easy to recycle, since it is made from wood byproducts. As such, liquid wood is quickly becoming the go-to alternative for many traditional petroleum-based plastics.

  1. Silicone

15403314882_8820bbf2b2_b
Image by Didriks | Flickr

Some companies are also using silicone in lieu of plastic when looking to create more eco-friendly products. Much like rubber, silicone shares many of the same characteristics of plastic, including its pliability and capability to resist both heat and water. However, it boasts a durability that is far greater than plastic, which makes it excellent for numerous applications, particularly in the healthcare field and in manufacturing.

Silicone can also make an excellent alternative for household plastics such as plastic wrap. One company, Lekue, uses silicone to create a range of sustainable food storage lids. These products maintain their flexibility across multiple uses and do not absorb food odors. Silicone can substitute for numerous other plastic-based products, including baby bottle nipples and insulation.

  1. Glass

In the past, most people used glass containers to hold their drinks and food products. Though the world has moved on in favor of plastic, glass remains the more sustainable alternative. As opposed to plastic, glass is made from sand, which makes it free of potentially harmful chemicals. Moreover, glass can undergo the process of recycling an infinite number of times. This makes it easy for manufacturers to turn old glass into new bottles and other products. In addition, people can easily reuse glass bottles and containers for any number of purposes. Glass products may cost more than their plastic counterparts, but they last longer and have a smaller environmental footprint.

  1. Starch-based plants

Over the years, starchy plants have become another popular source for sustainable plastics. The most commonly used material is corn, which manufacturers can process into a polyester called polylactic acid (PLA). As its name suggests, this material is made from the lactic acid produced when corn undergoes wet milling. Using PLAs, manufacturers can create virtually any product or packaging that would normally be made of plastic. These polymers are particularly beneficial because of their ability to fully biodegrade within a span of 47 days under industrial composting conditions. They also do not let off toxic fumes when they burn.

Corn is not the only starch-based plant that can create effective plastic substitutes. Over the years, researchers have developed polymers out of sugarcane, beets, and potatoes.

  1. Milk protein

Taking a cue from the starch-based plastic alternatives, a team of researchers from the US Department of Agriculture has developed a method for creating a unique film out of milk proteins. In particular, they are focusing on the protein casein, which is found in abundance in milk. Though casein-based plastics have existed for more than 100 years, these materials have been far too fragile to serve as more than a substitute for rare jewelry components such as ivory.

milk

By adding citrus pectin and glycerol to casein, however, the USDA researchers have been able to develop a sturdy, but fully biodegradable plastic alternative. Moreover, this material is edible, which means that packaging made from it could be entirely removed from the waste stream.

  1. Chicken feathers

Chicken feathers may seem like an unlikely plastic substitute, but US researchers have developed a means of transforming them into fully biodegradable plastics. In order to reduce billions of pounds of chicken feathers going to landfills each year, the research team sought to amplify the durability of the keratin in the feathers. When combined with methyl acrylate, keratin transformed into a plastic-like substance that was virtually tear-proof. Fully biodegradable and taken from a renewable source, chicken feather plastics are one of the most eco-friendly plastic substitutes.

  1. Biodegradable plastics

There are also a number of biodegradable plastics available that are helping to reduce the world’s dependence on traditional plastics. One such product is made by Tipa Corp, which took inspiration from the orange peel in their quest to create sustainable packaging. Looking to create a packaging solution that mirrored the biodegradability and protective nature of the orange skin, the company used a unique blend of polymers and other bio-materials to make a flexible, compostable plastic substitute.

You Need to Know About These Innovative Recycling Startups

As more consumers turn to sustainable living, they are also looking to purchase from companies that share a similar dedication to the environment. In recent years, entrepreneurs from across the globe have begun to cater to this growing market by establishing eco-friendly startups. Many of these business owners have focused on recycling, which enables them to reuse old products in creative ways and help consumers to reduce the waste that they produce. Read on to explore a few of the innovative recycling startups that you should know about:

Green Toys (United States)

green toys logoWith facilities in San Francisco and Chicago, Green Toys is uniquely positioned to deliver its eco-friendly products to consumers across the United States. The startup is helping to eliminate milk jugs and other post-consumer plastics from the national recycling stream by using them to create all manner of tableware and children’s toys. As of 2016, Green Toys had used more than 45 million milk jugs in its products.

Green Toys’ manufacturing process begins with material recovery. After cleaning the milk jugs that it receives, the startup shreds them into small flakes so that it can process them for production. With the addition of safe food coloring, the plastics are ready to find new life as toys such as train sets, vehicles, and play kitchen pieces. Not only are these products sustainable, but they are also free from harmful toxins.

POM POM (India)

PomPom logoEntrepreneurs Deepak Sethi and Kishor K. Thakur established POM POM in an effort to accommodate the recycling needs of over 1 million people in South Delhi. Looking to make it more convenient for locals to recycle, the startup allows its clients to arrange for the pickup of any type of recyclable.

Through the POM POM website or mobile application, consumers can book collection services in a few simple steps. First, they must input the approximate weight of each material that they wish to recycle. After then inputting the pickup location, they will be able to select from a list of available time slots throughout the day. During collection, POM POM’s recycling representatives will digitally weigh each material to gauge the value and provide immediate compensation to the client. The system both simplifies the process of recycling for South Delhi residents and provides valuable incentives to those who participate.

Evrnu (United States)

evrnu logoThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that Americans dispose of more than 13 million textiles every year. Of this total, 85 percent goes to landfills. The team behind the Seattle-based Evrnu has sought to reduce the amount of textile waste by recycling old clothes into brand-new fiber. Using its patented system, the startup takes solid textiles and turns them into a liquid that it then presses through a filter. The process generates a pure thread while using less water and fewer CO2 emissions than it typically takes to produce new cotton and polyester fibers. As a result, Evrnu has built a system that provides a sustainable outlook for the future of textile recycling and creation.

Indosole (Indonesia)

indosole logoIndonesia is known for its abundance of disposed motorcycle tires, which typically end up in landfills, rivers, and other dumping sites. While many developing countries opt to burn these materials to create fuel, this creates dangerous emissions. Recognizing the harmful environmental effects of these practices, Indonesian startup Indosole is saving tires and recycling them into sustainable footwear. The startup works directly with tire brokers to obtain the materials they need to create soles for shoes and sandals. During the manufacturing process, Indosole’s team carefully cuts each tire into a shape that will fit onto the bottom of a shoe. They then pair each sole with an artisan-crafted upper and adhere it using hammers, glue, and heat. With the addition of an insole, each piece of footwear is then ready for sale. Through this work, Indosole hopes to recycle 1 million tires that would have otherwise gone to landfills or been burned.

EcoPort (Hong Kong)

ecoport logoSince its inception in 2014, EcoPort has become one of the leading recycling entities in Hong Kong. Pairing sustainability with technology, the startup is making it easier than ever for the city’s residents and businesses to recycle. Through EcoPort, local consumers can request a wide range of recycling services such as on-demand collection and recycling bin drop-off. To help its clients monitor their environmental impact, the startup also allows them to connect to their own unique Waste Dashboard. This useful tool shows them how much waste they create, how much they recycle, and where it goes.

In order to encourage more people to recycle, EcoPort also focuses much of its work on the realm of education. To this end, the startup regularly sponsors recycling events in the local community and works with schools to develop better educational tools for students.

Garbags (Portugal)

garbags logoPortugal-based Garbags is dedicated to minimizing the amount of waste that goes into landfills. After spending years researching and testing new ways to recycle common household materials, the startup has developed a product line that allows it to breathe new life into used drink containers, toothpaste holders, coffee cans, and other packaging materials.

Garbags works with both locals and its network of green business partners, both of whom regularly donate their recycled packaging. Through the upcycling process, the startup turns these materials into useful products such as backpacks and bicycle storage bags. To date, Garbags has helped divert more than 170,000 packages from landfills.

 

 

5 Interesting Methods That You Can Use to Recycle

We all know the three R’s to live sustainably: reduce, reuse, recycle. However, this basic knowledge is not enough to tell us how to use this mantra to pursue a greener lifestyle. When it comes to recycling at home and at work, there are a number of different methods that you can use to minimize your contributions to the global waste and recycling stream. Read on to explore five common types of recycling:

  1. Precycling

supermarketPrecycling provides consumers with a means of reducing or eliminating waste before producing it, thereby minimizing the need to recycle. Most of the time, this practice requires consumers to purchase items that will generate little to no waste at the end of their life cycle. However, many who precycle also choose products that they can later reuse in a new way.

There are countless ways to precycle at home and on the go. When shopping at the grocery store, it is important to avoid any products with excess packaging. Thus, buying bulk items is a much more eco-friendly option. At checkout, using reusable bags to store your purchases will help to minimize the need for plastic bags. Other effective precycling methods include purchasing digital versions of movies and songs instead of CDs or DVDs, always opting for rechargeable batteries, and drinking from reusable cups.

  1. Multi-stream recycling

Sometimes referred to as “sorted-stream” recycling, multi-stream collection was the preferred method of recycling in the United States for many years. The method involves separating each type of recyclable prior to weekly curbside pickup. Individuals and businesses that participate in multi-stream programs often use designated bins to make sure that they properly separate each recyclable. In order to ensure continued separation during pick-up, recycling trucks will place each recyclable into its own compartment. Once they reach a recycling facility, these materials are sorted before they are sent to manufacturers around the world for re-use.

While the multi-stream method provides a comprehensive means of recycling, it also has its disadvantages. Not only do retrieval workers need to stop for a longer time at each residence and business on their route, but they also need to handle more recycling at each location. In addition, requiring consumers to separate reach recyclable by type can make the process complicated and burdensome. As a result, multi-stream recycling patrons sometimes end up throwing their recyclables into the trash instead of taking the time to sort them into designated bins.

  1. Single-stream recycling

glass recyclingRecognizing the various challenges that surround multi-stream recycling, more entities in the recycling industry have adopted the alternative method of single-stream recycling (also known as mixed stream recycling). Consumers who use this system are free to combine their various paper, plastic, glass, and metal recyclables into a single recycling bin. All of the recycled materials then go into a single-compartment recycling truck that brings them to a nearby materials recovery facility (MRF) for processing and sorting.

The more simplified single-stream recycling process can provide a number of benefits to consumers and collectors alike. The system allows recycling facilities to accept a wider array of materials without the need to additional trucks and time to their pickup routes. With shorter routes and less equipment, recyclers are able to save money. On the consumer end, a single-stream system makes it easier for individuals to recycle at home and at work. The simplicity of this method encourages more people to recycle, which ultimately results in more waste diversion.

Despite these benefits, single-stream recycling systems do have their shortcomings. The method can often raise costs for recycling facilities, which need to more time to carefully sort all the recyclables they receive. However, perhaps the biggest issue with this type of recycling method is the contamination of materials. For example, PET bottles and corrugated cardboard can sometimes contaminate an entire batch of recycled paper.

  1. Source separated recycling

Source separated recycling (sometimes called dual stream recycling) is a method that requires consumers to sort their recyclables before placing them into their designated bins. Mainly, these recyclables go into two “streams”: one for paper-based products and the other for glass and plastic materials. This recycling method places the power of sorting into the hands of the consumer, who must separate recyclables at the source.

Facilities that utilize source separated recycling can build upon the benefits that single-stream recycling provides. The main benefit of the dual stream system is that it minimizes the need for recyclers to process the items they receive. Source separation also results in less contamination of materials, which increases the volume of recyclable goods.

  1. Upcycling

For nearly a century, consumers have used upcycling to make new use of the products and materials that they have around their homes. Originally, this method of recycling enabled families with little money to repurpose everything from doors to used sacks of animal feed. Upcycling only continued to increase in popularity over the years due to its money-saving benefits. In recent years, however, consumers have begun to see a second benefit of upcycling: reducing their environmental footprint.

Unlike traditional recycling, upcycling does not require the use of energy to sort, process, and break down recyclable materials for remanufacturing. In addition, it enables consumers to reduce the volume of waste that they contribute to the waste stream. With a little creativity and the right knowledge, anyone can practice upcycling and give new purpose to used items. For example, plastic bottles can become garden planters, and barn doors can become dining room tables.