Five Things You Should Always Recycle

November 15 is America Recycles Day. You didn’t know there was a day for that? Oh, young recycler, we have so much knowledge to share with you! 2009 represents the 12th year of the nationally recognized day dedicated to encouraging Americans to recycle and buy recycled. In celebration, RecycleBank, a recycling rewards program currently servicing 24 states and the United Kingdom, shares their list of “five things you should always recycle.”

The following household items are especially important to donate or recycle because they contain materials that can contaminate the environment if they wind up in landfills or that can easily be reclaimed for use in new products.

Here are some convenient ways to keep them out of the trash:

  1. Keep toxic materials like lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and brominated flame retardants out of landfills by recycling electronics – All Office Depot, Staples, and Best Buy stores accept larger electronics like desktop computers for recycling for a small fee (usually $10) and smaller ones like cell phones and PDAs for free. Goodwill stores accept used computer equipment (some locations also accept televisions) for free.

You can also earn RecycleBank Points by recycling MP3 players/iPods, laptops, and cell phones through RecycleBank’s partners at Collective Good, FlipSwap, and Gazelle.

  1. Rechargeable batteries contain heavy metals and other chemicals best kept out of the waste stream – From cordless phones and power tools, digital cameras, and other gizmos, rechargeable batteries can be recycled for free at 30,000 drop-off points nationwide, including retailers such as Home Depot, Lowe’s, RadioShack, Sears, and Target. Enter your zip code at Call2Recycle to find one near you. Unfortunately, it’s more difficult to find places to recycle alkaline (or single-use) batteries. Try Earth911 to find drop off locations.
  2. Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs in landfills can break and release mercury, a neurotoxin, into the environment – Take them to any Ikea or Home Depot store for recycling or go to Lamp Recycle to find other drop off locations near you.
  3. Plastic Bags can be turned into new products like plastic lumber – Even if you’ve switched to reusable bags for your shopping, you probably have a bunch of these stored in your home. Luckily, lots of retailers like Wal-Mart, Safeway, Albertsons, Wegmans, Krogers, and Giant now have bins where you can recycle plastic grocery bags (and newspaper, drycleaning, bread, and sealable food storage bags). To find a drop off location near you, go to Plastic Bag Recycling or Earth911.
  4. Anything you don’t need that could be of great value to others – For instance, you can donate your used prescription glasses to the nonprofit OneSight at any LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sunglass Hut, Target Optical, or Sears Optical location (or go to One Sight for more locations near you). You can also donate unused, unexpired medications including antibiotics, pain relievers, and others by mailing them to the Health Equity Project. The glasses and medications will be distributed to people in need in developing countries.Keep in mind that you should always recycle hazardous substances like paint, pesticides, propane gas tanks, and motor oil at your town’s household hazardous waste collection events or permanent collection center. Go to Earth911or call 1-800-CLEANUP to find collection sites and events.