Stumped on what to do with stuff you can't toss in the recycling bin? Don't trash it before finding out how to Do Your Part with even the trickiest of items. Here are my "Top 5 Solutions to Your Recycling Problems."
Light bulbs: CFLs — or compact fluorescent light bulbs — should never be thrown away because they contain a small amount of mercury. There are several big companies that have convenient drop off sites and will recycle them responsibly. Lowe's, Home Depot, and Ikea stores have in-store recycling bins for unbroken CFLs and many full-service recycling centers will also accept them.
Plastic bags and baggies: The last thing you should do with plastic bags and baggies is throw them away. They take thousands of years — if not more — to break down in a landfill. Instead, reuse them first. Even the smallest plastic baggies can be rinsed out and used again. You can return most plastic shopping bags for recycling at almost all grocery stores. And get this, those stores (along with Walmart and Target) will also accept plastic sandwich bags labeled with a 4 plastic resin code, newspaper bags, and plastic wraps. Just check with your local store for details.
Batteries: Batteries should never be thrown away because of the heavy metals they contain, which can contaminate land and water. Instead, recycle those prized materials responsibly. Only a handful of curbside recycling programs will accept batteries, but there are many retailers and full-service recycling centers that will take your old batteries. Earth911.org and the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation both provide online directories to help you find battery recyclers near where you live.
Tattered clothing: Most of us have given away boxes of good clothing to Goodwill or other charitable organizations. But what about old clothing or things like rags, bedding or towels, which are too worn out to be re-used? Well, Goodwill wants them, too — as long as the material is not wet or contaminated with chemicals. These items are sorted and sold for recycling or other uses such as sofa stuffing.
Ink and toner cartridges: Every year, hundreds of millions of ink and toner cartridges are used in this country, and 70 percent of those end up in our landfills. Printer cartridges are easily refilled and recycled. You can also get paid to turn in your old cartridges. You can earn anywhere from a few cents to $20 or more per cartridge. There are a number of online sources that will supply a prepaid shipping label to mail accepted cartridges in exchange for cash. Or you can turn in your used cartridges for recycling at Office Max, Staples and Office Depot and earn a few dollars in store credit.
For specific information on all these recycling solutions and more, check out DoYourPart.com/Columns. And remember, just because you have something that can't go into your recycling bin, doesn't mean it should go to in the trash. Do Your Part, and find a better solution.