chapter 3: RECYCLE

If you really commit to reducing and reusing your wastes, you’ll find that there is not much left over! You can RECYCLE a lot of the waste you do have left, which is the third step to going green.

Recycle paper. Check with your local municipality for what you can recycle, including notebook paper, past schoolwork, mail, envelopes, magazines, postcards, and all clean paper. Newspapers can also be recycled separately. Folded cardboard shipping boxes, corrugated paper, cereal boxes, and toilet paper rolls can also be recycled.

Recycle plastic containers. Find out which types of plastics you can recycle in your area. Most municipal recycling systems only accept #1 and #2, but more areas are beginning to accept all types. Look for places that will accept the plastics you can’t recycle; for example, Stonyfield Farm accepts back its #5 yogurt cups and resells them to a company that manufactures toothbrushes and reusable plastic dishes.
Recycle food scraps. Consider composting food scraps (like banana peels, apple cores, vegetable cuttings, coffee grinds, and tea leaves) in organic decomposable containers.

Recycle grocery bags. If you ever forget your reusable bags when shopping, it’s ok to take plastic bags. After some use, these can be recycled as well – many supermarkets accept them in containers at the front of the store.

Recycle clothing and items. Donate clothes and other items to local thrift stores, and furniture to Habitat for Humanity or the Salvation Army. Local SPCAs may take worn-out towels or sheets to use for the animals. Other items could be given away on Freecycle or CraigsList.

Recycle cell phones. Many local organizations accept old cell phones and chargers. These will be refurbished, cleared of personal information and reprogrammed to dial 911 only. These phones are then distributed to residents in need of emergency communication.

Recycle electronics. The Consumer Electronics Association created a website (www. to help people find recycling resources for electronics in their area. The site also provides a list of electronics that are easier on the environment and your energy bill.

Recycle CDs and DVDs. With the increase in digital music and software, stacks of old CDs are quickly building up. Luckily, almost all components of a CD or DVD collection can be recycled. Disks and jewel cases are recycleable as plastics through special facilities. The CD Recycling Center of America accepts used CD and DVD disks, as well as the cases they come in. Visit their website and register, then receive a shipping label to send your used disks and cases. The service is free, you just pay for the shipping. See the resources chapter of this guide for the website.

Recycle sneakers. If you have old sneakers that are too damaged to be donated to a local thrift store or clothing drop, you can recycle those sneakers for a good cause. Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program takes used athletic shoes and recycles the materials to create athletic and playground surfaces like basketball courts and running tracks. You can recycle your sneakers at hundreds of drop locations around the world or ship them to Nike. See the resource chapter of this guide for their website to find more information on the program.

Recycle batteries. Both single-use and rechargeable batteries can be recycled. However, each type requires specific instructions to ensure it is properly discarded or recycled. Most municipalities, and often electronics stores, will accept old batteries for proper disposal. Check out Earth911’s website (find it in this guide’s resource chapter) to find a location in your area to recycle batteries.

Recycle eyeglasses. Old eyeglasses can be recycled for redistribution to those in need. Lions Club International provides drop boxes in many communities for used prescription eyelglasses. Your eye doctor may also know of collection programs in your area. Use Earth911’s website to find a drop-off location closest to you.

Recycle bottle caps. Did you know that bottle caps are generally a different type of plastic than the bottles themselves? Most water bottles are type #1, polyethylene, and are generally accepted for recycling in most curbside and drop-off programs. Bottle caps, however, are made of a different type of plastic, and usually require a separate recycling process from the bottles themselves. Aveda collects plastic bottle caps at all their national stores. Visit Earth911’s website to find a location near you.

Participate in municipal or district clean ups. Many towns host annual Clean Sweeps, where community members clean one specific site. Bring your kids and teach them not to litter and the importance of recycling.

Always recycle! If your school or workplaces doesn’t recycle, bring your bottles and plastic home to recycle, and spread the idea to other workers. When holding an event, bring bags to gather cans and bottles to recycle.

A note on recycling plastics: Most plastics can be recycled if separated into their different polymer types. Symbols indicating the polymer type can be found on almost all plastics. The symbols consist of arrows that cycle clockwise to form a triangle enclosing a number, and often have an acronym representing the plastic type below the triangle.

Read on about the different types of plastics and their uses after they’ve been recycled:

Polyethylene terephthalate (1)
Uses once recycled: Polyester fibres, thermoformed sheet, strapping, and soft drink bottles

High density polyethylene (2)
Uses once recycled: Bottles, grocery bags, recycling bins, agricultural pipe, base cups, car stops, playground equipment, and plastic lumber, yarn & clothing

Polyvinyl chloride (3)
Uses once recycled: Pipe, fencing, and non-food bottles

Low density polyethylene (4)
Uses once recycled: Plastic bags, 6-pack rings, various containers, dispensing bottles, tubing, and various molded laboratory equipment

Polypropylene (5)
Uses once recycled: Auto parts, industrial fibers, food containers, and miscelaneous dishware

Polystyrene (6)
Uses once recycled: Cafeteria trays, plastic utensils, toys, video cassettes, and insulation board and other expanded polystyrene products (e.g., Styrofoam)

Other plastics (7)
Including acrylic, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, fiberglass, nylon, polycarbonate, and polylactic acid

Because of the difficulty and expense of sorting, collecting, cleaning and reprocessing, most municipalities only accept #1 PETE and #2 HDPE for recycling at the moment. Some areas, however, are beginning to accept other types of plastic, so check with your local authority on what can and cannot be recycled in your area.