Recycling Is More Than Just Saving Aluminum Cans

Consumers are getting smarter than ever about their contributions to local landfills. Some people have even outfitted their homes with customized bins to hold trash and recyclables.

But there is much more to recycling than just a standard aluminum can collection. As technology has improved, ever more items can be reused or reformulated into new products instead of stripping further natural resources from the land.

Take a look at some of the newest ways to reduce our carbon footprint on the planet.

The standard items

For the easiest recycling at home, separate bins for different materials is good approach for the environmentally conscious person. Locate bins in an area that is easily accessible for the whole family.

Divide up paper, aluminum, glass, and plastics. Some people may prefer closed or open bins, depending on the containers’ location. One smart habit if you’re going to be holding items until recycling day, or even longer term, is to rinse them.

There can still be food and drink particles along the materials’ inner surfaces, which can create an offensive odor. Rinsing the items before placing them in the bins keeps the area smelling clean and fresh, and discourages insects.

Factoring in the electronic world

Our digital world seems to introduce a new electronic device almost every week. There are also hundreds of different batteries and chargers to power them.

Ecologically conscious consumers need to incorporate an e-cycling bin into their homes. Chemicals leach from e-waste if placed in landfills. Place all discarded and broken devices into this bin and take it to a recycling retailer once a month.

Some companies have started to offer “take-back” programs to generate business. Consumers bring in older items and can partially exchange them for new ones. There may also be a small reimbursement for electronics that are used, but in good condition. Manufacturers either resell items or use the scrap material to create new products.

Perk up the garden

Add a compost bin to your home’s recycling center. This should remain outside, either on a patio or in the yard.

Contrary to popular belief, compost bins should not be smelly. When consumers mix proper ratios of food and yard scraps in the bin, they naturally decompose into useable nutrition in the garden.

From lettuce scraps to grass clippings, keep these items away from your trash. Consumers will see a significant drop in trash volume each week when they compost.

For even more tips on making and using compost in your garden check out this great post on

Paint, oil, and other hazardous materials

Paint cans tossed into the trash eventually leak into the ground at a landfill, effectively poisoning the groundwater. From bleach to car oil, store all hazardous liquids until they can be discarded at a local waste facility.

Many communities promote weekend drive-through events when professionals take hazardous waste consumers have stored and dispose of it properly. Waste companies often circulate email notifications or flyers to keep people informed.

Once consumers start and maintain a recycling program in their home, the habit becomes second nature. The environment and society benefit from reuse of material that’s already in circulation. That aluminum can that held soda one day may later turn up in auto parts or a building structure.

Anna Johansson
Anna is a freelance writer and researcher from the Olympia, WA area who loves to obsess about weird topics and then write about them. When she isn't writing, she is outside on her bike and comtemplating her eventual trip to graduate school.

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