We all have good habits, and we all have bad habits. One habit that we should all be working to cultivate, however, is recycling as much as possible. The resources being used to create the majority of our manufactured goods are finite, meaning that as the world’s population increases, that limited amount is having to be shared by an ever-growing number of people. Unfortunately, much of what can be recycled is ending up in landfills, so it is time to ask what you can do to recycle junk that you no longer want or need.
Not Just the Usual Garbage
Typically, when people think about recycling, they focus on one thing: packaging.
Packaging—in particular, excessive packaging designed to fill more shelf space, thus making the product more visible to consumers—is certainly an issue, and a prime candidate for recycling. While many manufacturers have in recent years reduced the amount of packaging on their products, paper, cardboard and plastic containers still account for much or even most of the recycling in an average household.
Recycling the paper and plastic from packaging is pretty much second nature for many people at this point, which is fantastic. Paper in particular is responsible for a great deal of environmental damage. Although it is not possible to provide exact numbers, it is estimated that approximately 80,000 to 160,000 trees worldwide are cut down each day. This is according to the Global Forest Resource Assessment, conducted most recently in 2015, which suggests that Earth lost approximately 60,000 square kilometres of trees in one year. More than 2 million trees were lost to produce magazines alone. Clearly, recycling paper on its own would have a drastic effect on the environment, saving not only millions of trees per year, but also the resources used to create the wood pulp from which paper is formed.
Not to diminish the importance of recycling paper, plastic, and aluminum, but there are several other items in your home that you may not have realized are recyclable.
Things to Recycle
Many households still have older TVs. Once they break down, or you finally replace them, the old TVs should not be thrown in the garbage. Old analog TVs can contain over 3 kilos of lead and other heavy metals. Other components of the TV may be recyclable.
Power cables tend to accumulate over time as the devices they came with are discarded. The power cords themselves seem to get dropped into a junk drawer, where they stay for years. They are accepted at recycling centres for electronic goods.
Computers should always be recycled for parts. This is also important to ensure that your private information contained on your hard drive is destroyed.
Clothes and shoes are occasionally thrown away if the original owner doesn’t believe they will be of use to anyone else, but most gently-used clothing and shoes can be donated to the needy.
Furniture that no longer appeals to you may contain wood or metal that can be re-used. Even slightly-damaged items might be of use to others who are capable of repairing them. This includes everything from tables and chairs to bed frames, headboards and shelving units.
Appliances such as fridges and stoves obviously contain metal, but also frequently have control panels that can be recycled like other electronics.
CFL bulbs should never be disposed of in your regular garbage as they contain mercury. There are now many stores and other locations that accept them for recycling.
Batteries are present in virtually every home, but unfortunately, they tend to find their way into the garbage more often than not, perhaps due to uncertainty over whether they can be recycled or not. Recycling them is easy, however, as many libraries and post offices will accept them.
Pet hair, surprisingly, has some uses that you may not be aware of, including being spun into wool. In fact, dog hair wool can be as much as 8 times warmer than sheep wool. The hair can be collected and sent to spinners who will clean, spin and knit it into garments for you. Other companies have used dog hair to help clean up oil spills, so you and your dog can work together to clean the environment!
Recycle for Profit
If helping to protect the environment and our natural resources isn’t quite enough motivation for you, there are also ways to recycle or dispose of your junk that can earn you a bit of cash.
Aluminum cans and glass bottles are probably the items most commonly recycled for cash. It may take several dozen to earn even a few dollars, but depending on the drinking habits of your family, that may not be hard to come by. It may also be possible to collect cans and bottles from your workplace.
Books, newspapers and magazines are often donated or given away, but it may be possible to sell them to second-hand bookstores. Some books may even be valuable to collectors. What may be outdated and worthless to you may be “vintage” to a collector.
Ink cartridges can be recycled, or can be refilled and re-used. If you cannot re-use a cartridge for some reason, such as no longer having a working printer, you can find companies online that are willing to purchase them from you.
Your hair, much like your pet’s hair, can serve other purposes. If you ever have a drastic haircut, removing a significant length at once, you can sell the hair (or donate it) to a wig maker. Payment for your hair is dependent on length and quality.
While a number of the suggestions above may seem a little unusual, or even outright weird, the intent here is to show you that with a little thought and some creativity, we are able to recycle a great deal more than we have been doing. It is imperative that we find new ways to reduce our consumption and increase our ability to reuse our precious resources before they are lost to us, buried in landfills, never to be seen again.