Celebrate America Recycles Day today – don’t toss the recyclable stuff

America Recycles Day logoIn case you don’t know about it, today is America Recycles Day. This partnership between Keep America Beautiful and the Ad Council, it’s a day that serves to remind consumers of the importance of recycling and to raise awareness of the growing myriad of items that can be recycled.

The national recycling rate has increased every year for the past 30 years. The current recycling rate is 34.7 percent. But we can help raise this so much higher. Here’s a list of things you may not know or think of as being recyclable.

#1: Foam Cups, Food Containers, and Packaging (commonly mistaken as Styrofoam): One common item that many folks do not know is recyclable is polystyrene foam, which has a #6 – PS symbol, often found at the bottom of the material. Its uses range from the large molded blocks used to package electronics, such as TVs and computers, to food service packaging, including foam cups, bowls, egg cartons and “clamshell” take-out containers. Recycling foam actually keeps green manufacturers in business. Surprisingly, every day, foam is being recycled into beautiful picture frames, crown molding, baseboards, nursery packaging, and school supplies like pens and rulers. Not all cities accept foam in their curbside recycling bins or at neighborhood drop-off facilities, but many have been adding it, so check with your city to see if it is accepted where you live. For more information visit  http://california.gofoam.org/.

Recycling bins in San Jose, CA#2: Batteries: 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, including cellphones, cordless power tools, laptop computers, digital cameras, two-way radios, MP3 players/iPods and tablets.  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.  To find a drop-off site nearest you, visit http://www.call2recycle.org.

#3: Hangers: Currently, eight billion hangers go into landfills every year, enough to fill nearly five Empire State Buildings! In the US over 15 million hangers end up in landfills every day! Hangers are not accepted in all recycling systems due to tangling in recycling machinery and breaking apart into small pieces. So, check with your local collection agency to see if your plastic and metal hangers are allowed in your recycling bin. If they aren’t accepted, instead of throwing them away, take them back to the dry cleaners or donate them to your favorite thrift store. Better yet, ask your favorite retailer to use recyclable hangers, such as 100% recyclable paper hangers. For more information visit www.dittohangers.com/environment/.

#4: Plastic Bags: Plastic bags are generally #2 and #4 plastic, both of which are recyclable. Most 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. Check with your local recycling and solid waste office for details about plastic bag recycling in your community or visit http://plasticbagrecyling.org.

TERRACYCLE CANADA INC. - Leaving no butts behind: TerraCycle

Terracycle’s founder Tom Szaky with cigarette butts to be recycled

#5: Cigarette Butts: Cigarette butts are the most common littered item that we find at all of our KCB clean-up events. What many people don’t realize is that cigarette butts are not biodegradable; they are made with a material that can leak their toxic chemicals into the environment. Thankfully, they can be recycled into things like plastic pallets, guitar picks and even jewelry. There are some communities that have installed special cigarette butt depositories on their streets – check with your community to see if that’s happening near you. Terracycle, an innovative recycler that accepts cigarette butts and a growing variety of used consumer items for recycling, is rapidly turning what we consider trash into cool new products. So those ciggie butts can get a useful non-toxic second life through recycling.

The average American produces 4.4 pounds of trash a day, while the entire United States produces over 250 million tons of trash a year. Today,  on America Recycles Day, let’s pitch in and do more recycling. And be sure to take the America Recycles Day pledge.

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