According to the EPA, the average person produces approximately 4.9 pounds of “solid waste” or trash per day. Thankfully, you can recycle many everyday household items to help promote a cleaner, greener environment. Recycling and reusing items can help each individual to produce less trash that goes into landfills, ultimately harming our soil, air, and water. We’ve come up with some helpful lifestyle tips to show you how to recycle your trash, along with which items can be recycled and which ones cannot. There are also some creative DIY upcycling ideas that you can try to keep you and your family busy and the planet cleaner, so read on to learn more.
How to Recycle Your Trash at Home
The first step in recycling your trash at home is to follow the three R’s rule: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Here are some tips and information about how you can start practicing each of the three Rs at home.
Plan a beach weekend getaway that includes cleaning up the shore by removing the trash you find. This is a great way to teach your family about ocean pollution, and it’s a wonderful way to inspire your children to talk to their friends about littering and how it can affect our oceans and the animals that live there.
Reduce your consumption of plastics by filling a reusable water bottle with tap water. You can always refill this bottle when you get thirsty instead of buying bottled water that includes plastic. Water bottles are not typically biodegradable, so they can become a serious environmental nuisance.
Avoid buying fruits or vegetables in the plastic “clamshell” packaging or plastic bags you see at the supermarket. Instead, bring a reusable shopping tote with you and fill them with fresh fruits and vegetables.
Try to avoid buying items that come in excessive packaging. You can also do this when sending out shipments by reusing envelopes and cardboard boxes. When you order items like clothing and shoes online, look for retailers that are committed to using less packaging, too.
If you enjoy going out on picnics, stock your picnic bag with reusable cutlery, glasses, and plates rather than using disposable items that will end up in a landfill. Practice this same concept in your kitchen at home, and stick to dishes and flatware that will last for years instead of being thrown in the trash after every meal.
Grab some cardboard boxes or use some eco-friendly, reusable bags whenever you go to the supermarket. This is a great way to carry your groceries in a reusable container instead of using the disposable plastic bags that many supermarket chains offer customers.
Say no to using plastic straws and disposable coffee cups. Instead, bring a stainless-steel insulated travel mug with a lid and a metal straw with you whenever you’re getting coffee or tea on the go.
Take into consideration there are other household items such as your mattress covers that you can reuse.
Separate your trash by type by placing biodegradable, non-biodegradable, and other types of waste in different colored containers. Do not put plastic together with other materials. When you separate your items by type, it’s much easier to recycle them and keep the process smooth.
What are the materials you can Recycle and How to Do it?
Glass, metal, paper, and plastic are the most common items you’ll need to separate for household recycling. Here are some tips to show you the best ways to recycle these materials.
Break down and flatten cardboard boxes so you can fit more into the paper recycling container.
You can recycle virtually anything made of paper, including envelopes, wrapping paper, greeting cards, magazines, newspapers, and phone books.
All sorts of cardboard can also be recycled, including toilet paper and paper towel tubes.
Glass can not only be recycled endlessly, but it also has lots of applications for reuse. Make sure you recycle glass bottles, jars, and containers as often as possible since this material doesn’t break down, even after several runs through the recycling process.
Dispose of glass items safely in special glass-crushing containers whenever possible. Be careful when handling glass, and wear protective gloves and eyewear if you’re handling large glass items or a lot of glass at once.
Try to keep items like windows and mirrors separated from household glass items like empty bottles and jars. Most recycling centers need these items separated beforehand to ensure a smooth process.
Any type of plastic container can be recycled from water bottles to salad dressing containers or ink cartridges. Make sure you put anything you use that’s made of plastic into your recycling bin, clean it out, and hold onto it for crafts, storage, and other handy uses.
Ask your local recycling center about black plastic. This material is usually unable to be detected by the recycling scanning equipment, so it may not be able to be included in your bins.
Almost everything made of metal in your home can be recycled, including empty spray cans, tin foil, and soda cans. Crush your aluminum cans before putting them in the recycling bin to make more room.
If you’re recycling scrap metal for cash, make sure you clean it thoroughly before you haul it away. Most scrap metal buyers will pay more when the metal is already clean.
Check to find out whether or not you can recycle electronics with the rest of your metal items. Many computers, video game consoles, and other electronic items contain dangerous chemicals, so they need special handling to keep them from getting into the soil and waterways.
You can use household food waste to make homemade compost, which is excellent for healthy and organic gardening. This mixture is perfect for fertilizing your trees, flowers, and vegetable garden.
If you want to make compost, you can use eggshells, discarded fruits and vegetables, nutshells, coffee grounds, and tea bags. You can also add organic matter like tree leaves, grass clippings, wool, and fur to your compost.
Sometimes a product manufacturer offers battery recycling as a service to their customers like our friends at Green Frog Systems who accept and recycle any of their solar street light batteries free of charge. If you’re nowhere near a battery recycling center or your product was manufactured overseas, you may want to contact a local electronics store as sometimes they accept old batteries for recycling.
Creative Ideas to Upcycle Your Trash
Here are some fun and creative ways to upcycle your household trash and turn it into something new.
Plastic bottle DIY’s: Make homemade ornaments with plastic containers or use them as gift boxes. Plastic also makes great planters, bird feeders, and even little toys and dollhouses for the kids.
Glass bottles: Design your own DIY lamp or candle holder with an old glass bottle. Glass is also great for doing various art projects or simply decorating it with paint and other embellishments to use as home décor.
Light bulbs: Make some fun holiday crafts with old light bulbs like sparkly Christmas decorations or ornaments. They’re also a great choice to make mini terrariums or containers for air plants.
Metal: Old forks and spoons, as well as cans, are perfect for making a variety of unique items like a custom key holder, beautiful jewelry, or a fun mirror. Old cans make excellent cookie cutters, too.
Clothing and bedding: Get creative and use an old pair of jeans to make a funky “jeans chair.” Old bedding can be torn or cut into smaller pieces and used for cleaning rags. Any type of fabric is also great for reupholstering furniture if you’re really feeling crafty.
Coffee grounds and tea bags: You can use coffee grounds as a fertilizer for your garden. Place dried coffee grounds or tea bags in the freezer as a deodorizer, too.
Old furniture: Don’t toss old furniture onto the curb. Refinish it with a fresh coat of paint, change the hardware, or add some distressed detailing to give it a second life.
Wine corks: Save your old wine corks and turn them into unique ornaments or glue them to a piece of cardboard to make your own corkboard for the kitchen or home office.
Tin cans: Remove the label from old tin cans and decorate them with contact or wrapping paper to turn them into pretty homemade vases or planters.
Paint buckets: Use an empty paint bucket as a charming ice bucket for entertaining. Clean the paint container thoroughly and cover the outside of the bucket with some scrap fabric or wrapping paper for a fun finishing touch.
Keep these smart and simple tips in mind to help you increase your recycling and upcycling efforts at home. When you recycle your trash, you’re not just helping the environment, you’re also helping the economy and your own budget too. Upcycling household items is a fun way to find new hobbies as you come up with endless new ways to make unique creations. Don’t forget to show your family how to follow these handy recycling tips in their workplace and school. With a little bit of creativity and some easy effort, you can begin to go green while reducing your environmental footprint.
Written by Andrea Lozoya for porch.com