Recycling is more than just putting stacks of newspapers out at the curbside each week. In this report, we’ll look at various tips on how to recycle and make your recycling efforts more effective.
How To Recycle
One of the simplest but sometimes overlooked ways to begin our how to recycle guide in your eco-friendly recycling ventures is to reduce what you use in the first place. This may require some thought, so consider making a list over the course of several days. Write down what disposable items you use – paper napkins, paper towels, plastic water bottles, etc. – and then sit down with the list and see where you can cut back. Can you reduce paper towel usage by replacing them with cloths or rags for certain clean-up jobs? Do you have cloth napkins that can stand in for the paper napkins you’ve been using? Evaluate how many plastic water bottles your family uses, then figure out as many ways as possible to replace disposable plastic bottles with reusable, washable water bottles.
Food waste is another area of how to recycle where you can reduce before (or in addition to) recycling. Use smaller plates for your family so that individual servings will be smaller. But when you cook a casserole or other dish that freezes well, make a larger quantity. Serve half then freeze half. This helps reduce leftovers. Plan your meals and make your shopping list accordingly in order to reduce too many “impulse buys” and consequent waste. Learn to use leftovers creatively to further reduce food waste in your home.
Composting is another excellent way to reduce food waste and important for how to recycle. It won’t change the amount of food you discard necessarily (there are other ways to do that), but it will make good use of the food you don’t eat. Peelings from bananas, citrus fruits, potatoes, and other fruits and vegetables can be composted, as can most plate scrapings. Compost can be made outdoors or indoors, with worms or without. There’s some kind of composting you can do no matter what your living situation. Compost can be used on lawns, gardens, and container plants. There is more on composting later in this report.
Reusing items is important part of how to recycle and a big component of recycling. When you find another use for something, you are recycling it in a sense. In fact, it’s one of the most fun and rewarding aspects of an eco-friendly home. The same goes for buying “new” items for gifts or your home – buy used whenever possible. There will be more on creative reuse of recyclables later in this report.
A meaningful way to recycle your used items is to donate them. Whether it’s an old table or used computer, making donations is a form of recycling you may not have thought of. Here are some items that can be donated.
-Broken appliances like stoves, refrigerators, electric mixers, and so forth can sometimes be donated to companies and organizations that will refurbish them. Some businesses will purchase used appliances, dismantle them, and use various parts in making other machines. Check with your local charity organizations and/or Habitat for Humanities chapter to find out if they have such a program.
-Eyeglasses can also be donated. Whether your prescription has changed or you just purchased new frames, your old eyeglasses can be donated to charities like the Lion’s Club. Your eye doctor can probably tell you where you can donate your old eyeglasses, too.
-Cell phones are collected by various charitable organizations. You also might want to check with the company where you bought the phone, and see if they have a recycling or donation program for old phones.
-Computers can be donated to schools and prisons in your area. Sometimes the schools and prisons work together – the prison inmates repair and refurbish the computers, and then donate them to schools. Libraries are also a good resource for computer donation information. You can also check with the computer’s manufacturer to see if they have a mail-in recycling or donation program.
-Old art supplies are often welcome donations in schools and daycares. Call your local board of education or educational institutions, and see if they would be interested in crayon stubs, used pencils and watercolors, etc. These same educators might be able to point you in another direction if they can’t accept the items as a donation – there are recycling programs online that specialize in children’s art supplies, particularly crayons. Crayons can be melted down and recycled into new crayons.
Once you have gotten some of these reduction techniques down, it’s time to fine-tune your recycling. Here are lots of recycling tips and ideas to help you out.
As noted above, reusing items is one of the great recycling tips and good way to recycle, and can be a big money-saver and creative outlet. Here are some unusual and fun uses for recyclables around your home before they hit the recycling bin.
-Cardboard tubes (paper towel, wrapper paper, toilet paper)
It seems like plastic bottles are everywhere. As you reduce your use of them according to some of the previous suggestions, you will find old ones lying around. Sometimes, despite all our efforts to stop using plastic bottles, they manage to show up in our recycling bins or homes anyway. But there are some fun and creative uses for these ubiquitous items. Here are some ideas.
Make bird feeders from plastic bottles – milk jugs, 2-liters, and water bottles can all be made into bird feeders. The principle is basically the same – cut a large hole into the side of the bottle, making the bottom edge of the hole about 2 inches from the bottom of the bottle. An inch or so below the edge of the large hole, poke a small hole, and into the small hole insert a perch (why not use some of those old pencil stubs as perches?). Tie thread, wire, or twine around the top of the bottle (or the handle if you are using a milk jug), fill the bottom of the bottle with seed, and hang. You can vary the design or come up with something new.
The bases and tops of plastic bottles make pretty candle holders. If you want to make a votive or tealight holder, use a 2-liter bottle (the smaller plastic bottles will have sides too close to the flame). For taper or dinner candle holders, simply cut off the top of the bottle and insert the candle into the threaded top. Push the candle down until it touches the table (or whatever surface it’s on) evenly with the edges of the bottle top. If you want to cover the threaded top, tie a ribbon around it.
To make a votive holder, cut the bottom off of a 2-liter plastic bottle. Make the cut in shapes, like points or curves. Set the votive or tealight in the center. If you want it to be colorful, you can use permanent marker on the outside.
You can make a pretty vase from a plastic bottle. You might want to cut off the threaded top, or leave the top and use it as a single flower or bud vase. Decorate the bottle with beads, pieces of tissue paper applied with decoupage medium, or paint suitable for plastics.
-Broken cups and dishes
Mosaic is an excellent way to use broken pieces of glass, porcelain, china, stoneware, and so forth. Relatively inexpensive mosaic kits can be bought at craft stores, or you can go online and find a tutorial. You can use mosaic to make coasters, picture frames, flowerpots, and even counters and tabletops. You can give an old piece of furniture new life this way, continuing in your theme of recycling and reusing.
Striking collages and 3-D artwork can be made by gluing pieces of broken dishes and cups onto pieces of stretched canvas. Use a hot glue gun and glue them in interesting designs and shapes.
In addition to donating and recycling, you can do some interesting crafts with crayons. Here are some ideas.
Cover your work area with newspaper. Use a piece of sturdy paper in any color you like. Peel the wrapper off the crayons you want to use. Hold the unwrapped crayon over a lighted candle. As the wax begins to soften, you will see it form a drip. As soon as it does, take it from the flame and tap or fling the liquid wax onto the paper. You will create swirls and lines and curls in a wide array of colors. You can make the design as minimal or as dense as you like. Frame it and give it as a gift, or use the technique to make stationary (just applying the colorful wax to the edge or corner of the paper) or note cards.
You can also make “stained glass” by ironing shaved bits of crayon between pieces of wax paper. Cover the top piece of wax paper with a dish towel before ironing.
This is a fun one for kids, and a great way to make gifts. Draw directly onto a white shirt with the old crayon stubs. Then place a piece of wax paper on the shirt against the design. Then place a dish towel over the wax paper. With a warm iron, go over the towel. The heat will melt the wax and soak the crayon dye into the fabric to make the design permanent.
*Make More Crayons
You can recycle crayon stubs into new crayons yourself. All you will need to do is melt the crayons and pour the wax into a mold of your choice. Melt the wax by putting unwrapped crayon stubs into an old soup can. Set the soup can into a skillet of hot water (and electric skillet works well). To mold the crayons, candy molds and muffin tins can work, as can any small container that is heat-resistant. You can melt the colors separately or melt them together (without stirring much) to make a multi-colored crayon. If using a muffin tin, you can put bits of crayon directly into the tins, melt them in the oven, then cool. The colors will melt but not mix to make multi-colored crayon chunks.
Crayon wax needs to be mixed with paraffin to make a candle. You can melt down an old white candle, or purchase solid paraffin at a craft store. (Candle stubs are another recyclable item you can use creatively!) Using the soup can and hot water method, melt chunks of old candle and add a crayon stub or two to color the candle wax. You can also add a drop or two of essential oil to scent the wax while it’s liquid.
While the waxes melt, prepare a shoebox by pouring in about 4 inches of sand (children’s play sand will work fine). In the sand, dig a small hole in whatever shape you like. Then, using your fingers, push down into the edge of the hole in 3 different places, equal spaces apart. These will be the candle’s wax “legs.” In the middle of the hole, insert a piece of string for a wick. Make it long enough to lie over the side of the shoebox – you can trim it after the candle is hard. If you like, lay silk flowers or shells in the hole. Then pour the liquid wax into the sand hole, right over the flowers or other decorations. Let it cool, trim the wick, and dig the candle out of the sand. You can make many candles this way, reusing the sand.
Colorful glass bottles can be carefully broken (try crushing them inside a pillow case) and used in mosaic designs. A glass cutter is a relatively inexpensive tool that can open up new worlds of creative glass bottle recycling. For example, you can cut the tops off of bottles and use them as drinking glasses (after sanding the cut edges). Cut the bottles in half and use the top to hold taper candles and the bottom to hold votives or tealights. Purchase some glass paint and paint the glass bottles. They can be reused to hold salad dressing, herbal vinegars or oils, and other items.
One of the most fun ways to reuse newspaper is to make it into new paper. Shred the newspaper and put the pieces into a rubber dish tub until the tub is about 2/3 full. Pour water into the strips just until they are submerged. Mush and stir the paper with your hands, then leave it to soak for several hours. Then give it a good mix again. It should be soft and pulpy. Mix the pulp in a blender in batches, pouring the blended paper-water mixture into a separate container. Then, into the now-empty dish tub, pour a few inches of water. Stir a tablespoon of white glue into the water. Set a screen down into the water – you can make one by stretching nylon over a wooden frame, or you can use an old window screen. Spread a cup or so of the paper pulp over the screen while it is under the water. Lift the screen out of the water, let it drain, then turn it pulp-side-down onto a kitchen towel. The pulp will adhere to the towel while you lift the screen off. Lay another towel over the pulp, then iron the top towel. This helps dry out the pulp. After a day or two, the pulp will be thoroughly dry, and you can peel it off the towel and cut it into the shapes and sizes you want.
Newspaper can also be shredded and composted. You can use newspaper as creative gift wrap. It can even be used to control weeds!
All of these eco-friendly recycling tips can be implemented by the average household, and you can find more in Part II at the following link: How To Recycle Recycling Tips for Ec0-Friendly Homes Part II. Saving the planet does indeed begin at home, and we hope that this has given you all the information you need for how to recycle!