5 Easy Steps to Recycling


There is a great blog that I have been reading lately called Reduce Footprints. Each week, there is a new challenge.  This week’s challenge is to share your recycling knowledge and/or tips.  In response to that challenge, here goes….. 

We all know the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle chant.  And guess what?  It is in that order for a reason.  The BEST option – reduce. Don’t use it in the first place if you will eventually need to get rid of it – regardless of whether that is trash or recycle bin.  This can be easier said than done and does require a lot more effort and change.  So I say, start with the easier one – recycle – for now.  In time you will get there.  You can’t do it all at once.  Don’t try. You are more likely to fail. 

I have many posts on what is recyclable and how to recycle it for the Westford MA area.  I have decided to consolidate all of that information into this post, with the added benefit of how to figure this out for your area. Recycling varies widely from state to state, town to town, sometimes even within the town!  It can be very confusing and can change.  The thing to remember is to keep taking a peek at the rules – usually things that were NOT recyclable will become recyclable in some manner.  You also need to find out what is available to you.  Most likely, you have a convenient option available to you for common items like paper, plastics and metals (cans). Then there are other items that, with a little effort, can be recycled or reused as well.

Step One:  Educate Yourself

Find out what form of recycling is available to you.   Do you have curbside recycling, a transfer station or do you use a private hauler?
If you don’t know, do a quick internet search on “your town/city state recycling”.  For example, if I type the following into a search engine “ westford ma recycling”, the first thing that pops up is our town’s recycling website with tons of information.

Once you have this information, take time to read and understand what can and can’t be recycled.  Keep this handy.  You will refer to it often.  Take a look at Westford Recycling Dos and Don’ts  and Common Misconceptions about Westford Recycling. Each give some basics about curbside recycling in Westford MA.  They will alert you to things to look for in your recycling program.  Do you need to sort?  Can you recycle a pizza box?

If you have trash and recycling services provided by your city or town, there will be tons of information on recycling.  A little known fact – municipalities pay big bucks for trash and recycling services.  Recycling services are cheaper so they will do whatever it takes to educate and encourage their citizens to recycle instead of throw in the trash.  This includes composting in some areas.  Our town offers a backyard composter for a fraction of the retail price.

Step Two: Analyze Your Trash

This goes along with Step one.  Concentrate on everything you get rid of for a week or so – really look at each item and figure out if it is recyclable in your area. If you have questions, ask.   I like this method since it focuses you and makes it very applicable to what you use. 
Once you know where things go, it will become second nature and you won’t need to think about it.

Step Three: Make it Easy

If something is easy and convenient, more likely you and your family with stick with it.  If you need to sort items, do multiple bins make sense for you.  Do you have space in your kitchen for separate bins?  Where is the best place to put the recycle bin?
Put bins all over the house to catch recyclables.  I converted the office trash can to a recycle bin since 99% of what I get rid of in that room is paper.  I also have another bin on the second floor to catch toilet paper tubes and plastic bottles.

Step Four:  Get your family involved  

Teach them – especially the kids.  They will nag your spouse or grandma for you!  Kids catch on so quickly.  It will become second nature to them in no time.  I have seen this is our schools and with my own children.

Step Five:  Expand Your list of Recyclables

Once you have the easy stuff down pat, add to it!  There are other items that can be recycled or reused with a little extra effort.  If you have a local recycling department, they can be a great resource.  
Here are a few I have found.  Again, internet searches and a few follow up emails or calls can do wonders!  Quite a few of these things are recycled by national chains or organizations, find the location closest to you.
  1. Clothing – So many charities would be happy to have your gently worn clothing.  
  2. Wine corks – All Whole Foods locations collect natural wine corks.
  3. Eye glasses – The Lions Club has collection boxes in many locations, or ask a local eye glass shop or eye doctor.
  4. Energy Bars, Chip Bags – local TerraCycle organizations.  This one may be a little harder to find.  Try the TerraCycle Facebook page.
  5. Athletic Shoes – If your running shoes are worn out, take them to a Nike Store to be re purposed into play surfaces.  I think it would be awesome if Gyms had collections for their members – any takers out there?
  6. Plastic bags – Most grocery stores collect plastic store bags, sometimes more.
  7. Cosmetic tubes or jars – Origins and TerraCycle collect old cosmetic packaging.
  8. Brita Filters – All Whole Foods locations collect Brita Filters and all #5 plastics for a company called Preserve.
  9. Bicycles – Bikes Not Bombs is a non-profit that collects bicycles all over the country.
  10. Ink and toner Cartridges – Staples
  11. Rechargeable batteries – Best Buy
  12. CDs, Cables, wires – Best buy
Take it easy. Start small and take steps when you are ready.  If you try to do everything at once you will fail.
Happy Recycling!

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5 Responses to 5 Easy Steps to Recycling

  1. Small Footprints May 31, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    Wow … wonderful post! I especially like step 2 – we often just toss things without a thought. When one really stops to think about what’s in their hand, before it hits the trash bin, it’s a real eye-opener. And typically, we can find other uses for the item.

    Thanks also for the great list of idea … I didn’t know that Whole Foods took wine corks or that Best Buy took CDs, cables & wires. 🙂

  2. Petunia GreenBeans June 1, 2011 at 1:08 am #

    Now that’s what I’m talking about!! I just noticed the cork bin the last time I was at Whole Foods- now I have a perfect excuse to unwind with a glass of wine!

    My town is pretty simple when it comes to their recycling services: paper/plastic/aluminum curbside. But so many towns have mighty complicated offerings and not enough publicity. It’s going to be tough to create a universal guide, but I’m going to do my darnedest!! Thank you so much for contributing!!

  3. The Greening Of Westford June 1, 2011 at 6:30 pm #

    Thanks for reading and commenting! I so enjoy both of your blogs. I was so psyched to find out about Best Buy recycling. I recently took a load of old cables and CDs there.
    I think you are right, Petunia,about the publicity in some towns. I volunteer on our recycling commission – all volunteer organization. We do our best, but so many people in town still don’t know that we don’t need to sort or that plastic bags cannot go in the curbside bins.
    Good luck with the universal guide. The rules vary so much, but I have confidence in you! Can’t wait to read it!

  4. groovygreenlivin.com June 3, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    What great suggestions Kristina-thank you. I also had no idea that WF took wine corks for recycling. We have a lot of those!

  5. The Greening Of Westford June 5, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    You are very welcome Lori! I feel so great when I recycle EVERYTHING from a bottle of wine!

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