Five Recycling Mistakes You're Probably Making But Don't Know It
In our crazy, fast-paced lives, worrying about your recycling probably isn’t keeping many people up at night. However, let’s not shy away from an opportunity to learn a few simple ways on how we can improve our actions and become better stewards of our earth.
Here are five common recycling mistakes you might be making:
- Assuming all plastic products with the chasing arrows symbol are recyclable – The symbols or resin codes on many plastic items can be misleading. In the City of Gainesville and Alachua County curbside recycling program, only plastic bottles, jugs, jars, and tubs are accepted for recycling in your blue recycle bin. Lower grade (non-rigid) plastic items such as plastic bags, wrap, cups, clamshells, deli containers, and trays are not accepted for recycling curbside.
- Placing materials in the wrong bins – Recyclable should be properly prepared with containers (bottles, cans & cartons) placed in your blue bin and with papers (boxes, magazines & junk mail) placed in your orange bin. In the City and County, containers and papers recyclables are collected separately curbside to reduce contamination and processing cost.
- Bagging your recyclables – Never place your recyclables out for collection inside plastic bags. Recyclables should be left loose and in your recycle bins. Plastic bags are not accepted for recycling as they become entwined in the machinery, belts, and conveyors at the recycling sorting facility, which lead to shutdowns until the plastic bags can be removed. These shutdowns decrease operational efficiency and increase the cost of processing materials.
- Putting food contaminated items in your recycle bins – Greasy pizza boxes, donut boxes, and sticky peanut butter jars are not accepted for recycling. Food residue should be rinsed out or removed from all containers before placing them in your recycle bins. Food contaminated materials decrease the market value of clean recyclable materials.
- Setting out boxes with non-recyclables inside – All boxes should be empty, flattened, and cut down into pieces no larger than 4 feet by 4 feet. Remove and dispose of plastic film and Styrofoam® packing materials from boxes. If you have extra boxes, you may place them out for collection under or next to your orange bin.
For a list of accepted recyclables materials or to request additional recycle bins, visit cityofgainesville.org/recycle or call the City at 352-334-2330.
Where You Can Drop Off Your Household Batteries For Recycling
Batteries power every cordless electronic device we have in our home, and our demand for more unplugged power is increasingly growing. While advances in battery technology are seemingly made daily to meet our need for more powerful batteries that are cheaper and lighter, there’s a limited supply of many of the elements used to make new batteries. It is critically important that we do our part and recycle our used rechargeable batteries to prevent future battery shortages.
Standard-sized batteries (AA, AAA, C, D, and 9-volt) are commonly used to power portable radios, flashlights, and small toys. These dry-cell alkaline batteries are also referred to as “single-use” or “disposable” batteries because they have limited recycling potential. While these batteries contain small amounts of zinc and other metals, they are no longer considered hazardous since manufacturers stopped putting mercury in them in the mid-1990s. Alkaline or any other type of battery should never be placed in your recycle bins at home; however, they can be dropped off for recycling at the Alachua County Household Hazardous Waste Collection Center. The smart move is to get a set of new standard-sized rechargeable batteries and save yourself money in the long run.
Single-use batteries are increasingly being replaced with rechargeable batteries in many products. Small consumer products such as cell phones, cordless tools, computer tablets, and electric toothbrushes are powered using rechargeable batteries. Lithium-ion (Li-ion) rechargeable batteries have mostly replaced their Nickle-cadmium (Ni-Cd) rechargeable battery predecessors. The Li-ion chargeable batteries are lighter and hold a longer charge. Rechargeable batteries contain valuable metals such as cobalt, nickel, and lithium and should be recycled at their end-of-life.
There are several options available for recycling your rechargeable batteries. Most cellular phone stores, large retail stores, and hardware stores have drop-off containers for you to drop off your rechargeable batteries for recycling. You can also visit Call2Recycle.org to find a batteries recycling drop-off location near you. For a list of other local battery recycling options, use the Gainesville Recycling Resource Guide.
Prevent Litter and Avoid Overfilling Your Trash Cart
Neighbors are reminded to use their residential city-issued trash carts to full capacity when needed; however, carts should never be overfilled. Your cart lid should be completely closed when setting it out for collection. Trash volumes should not exceed the height of the Maximum Fill Line (top rim) of the cart. Please do not pile bags of garbage on top of or around the cart, as it might prevent service vehicles from safely emptying your cart. All excess garbage must be placed in Official Yellow Bags and set at least 2 feet from your trash cart.
Overfilled or overflowing trash carts can create several problems, including:
- Garbage spillage and increased litter on your neighborhood streets;
- Attracting unwanted insects and wildlife to your yard or home; and
- Seepage of rainwater into your trash cart because of open lids.
Neighbors can purchase Official Yellow Bags at all local Publix and Gainesville Ace Hardware stores. Look for the yellow bags along the trash bag aisle or ask for them at the customer service counter. Each Official Bag holds approximately 30 gallons of trash and has a weight limit of 40 pounds per bag. Official Yellow Bags sell for $11.25 per pack, and each pack includes 5 bags. Excess waste set out in personal containers, boxes, or non-official yellow bags will not be collected.
Recycle Your Old, Used Clothes
Did you know that each person in the U.S. throws away 68 pounds of clothes a year on average? What a massive waste when you consider that nearly all that material could have been recycled or reused. All types of fibers are recyclable and in high demand (fleece, flannel, corduroy, cotton, nylon, denim, wool, etc.). Help out your community, the environment, and even your wallet by recycling your old, used clothes.
A great way to recycle your old clothes is by donating them to local charities such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army. A list of all the local options where you can donate clothing is available online using the Gainesville Recycling Resource Guide. Charities and other organizations will accept clothing, linens, and other textiles in any condition. Donated clothes that are still wearable are sold in a retail store to help raise funds. Some charities give away clothes to needy individuals and families in the community. Items unsuitable for reuse or resale are often sent to textile recyclers where clothing is “de-manufactured” into fabrics that can be worked into new materials, such as cleaning rags, car insulation, and seat stuffing. Cotton items can even be recycled into new paper. Used clothing and textiles are also shipped overseas, where they are in high demand from less developed countries.
You can also recycle your old clothes by reselling them locally or online. Sell your old clothes for cash or store credit to local consignment shops and thrift stores that specialize in finding a second life for clothes with some fashion value left. Local used clothes retailers include Flashback Recycled Fashions, Plato’s Closet, and Weecycle of Gainesville (baby clothes only). Poshmark and ThredUp are just a couple of the many online apps that can help you find buyers for you used clothes. That old pair of flared pants in the back of your closet just might be the missing piece in someone else’s wardrobe.
Recycling clothing and other textile fibers benefits the environment because many of the polluting and energy-intensive processes used when manufacturing textiles from raw materials are avoided. Unlike virgin materials, recycled textiles don’t need to be re-dyed or scoured, and require much less water to process the fibers into their final form. Environmental awareness among clothing manufactures is increasing, and many retailers are now taking back their own products for recycling. Some retailers, like H&M, are rewarding customers with discounts and coupons on future purchases when they bring in unwanted garments for recycling.
For a list of local options for donating clothing, visit the online Gainesville Recycling Resource Guide.
How You Can Reduce Wasted Food At Home
Most people don’t realize how much food they throw away every day—from uneaten leftovers to spoiled produce. In the United States, over 63 million tons of food is sent to landfills each year, and only about 4% of all food we throw away gets diverted to composting. By managing food sustainably and reducing waste, we can save money, provide for those who do not have enough to eat in our communities and conserve resources for future generations.
Planning, prepping and storing food can help your household waste less food. Here are some helpful tips:
PLAN & ORGANIZE:
- > Plan out your meals for the week and stick to your shopping list, buying only the things needed for those meals.
- > Check your refrigerator and pantry before going to the store; avoid buying food you already have.
- > Keep your refrigerator organized by rotating new items to the back and items that need to be eaten soon to the front and center.
- > Create an “eat me first” box or bowl to consume the most perishable items first.
STORAGE & PREPARATION:
- > Keep fruits that give off natural gases as they ripen (i.e., bananas, apples & tomatoes) in a different bin than other fruits and vegetables.
- > Preserve fresh foods and leftovers by putting them in the freezer. Bread, meats, sliced fruit and abundant seasonal produce can all be frozen.
- > Wait to wash berries until you are ready to eat them to prevent them from molding too soon.
- > Prepare foods for quick and easy access by storing them in clear serving size storage containers.
BE THRIFTY & SAVE MONEY:
- > Be creative when cooking. Casseroles, soups and smoothies are great ways to make use of leftovers and fruits and vegetables past their prime.
- > Shop smart! Start by shopping in your own refrigerator and cupboards first.
- > Avoid shopping when you’re hungry, as that can lead to overbuying.
- > Buy locally-grown foods and less than perfect looking fruits and vegetables to save money.
- > Pay attention to expiration dates and learn the difference between “sell-by,” “use-by” and “best-by” on products.
Thank you for your efforts to keep food waste out of the trash reduces waste going to the landﬁll and lowers greenhouse gas emissions. For more tips, visit US EPA and SaveTheFood.com.