21 Things You Didn’t Know You Can Recycle

     Garbage. Americans produce more and more of it every year, when we need to be producing less. Even the most waste-conscious among us can feel overwhelmed by the amount of household waste that goes beyond what municipal recyclers and compost bins can handle. We’ve spent a lot of time investigating the state of waste management in our country, so we can explain how to get serious about the three R’s – reducing, reusing, and recycling — and divert more waste away from landfills. (To download the entire recycling issue of Green American, visit our archives page.)

1. Appliances: Goodwill accepts working appliances, or you can contact the Steel Recycling Instituteto recycle them.

2. Batteries: Try Battery Solutions to buy a product to put batteries in to ship away. Staples also has a national battery recycling program for individuals or your office. Some Ikea stores have recycling stations for them as well.

3. Cardboard boxes: Contact local nonprofits and women’s shelters to see if they can use them. Or, offer up used cardboard boxes at your local Freecycle.org listserv or on Craigslist.org for others who may need them for moving or storage. If your workplace collects at least 100 boxes or more each month, UsedCardboardBoxes.com accepts them for resale.

4. CDs/DVDs/Game Disks: Send scratched music or computer CDs, DVDs, and PlayStation or Nintendo video game disks to CDFixers for refinishing, and they’ll work like new.

5. Clothes: Wearable clothes can go to your local Goodwill outlet or shelter. Donate wearable women’s business clothing to Dress for Success, which gives them to low-income women as they search for jobs. Offer unwearable clothes and towels to local animal boarding and shelter facilities, which often use them as pet bedding. Consider holding a clothes swap at your office, school, faith congregation or community center. Swap clothes with friends and colleagues, and save money on back-to-school clothes, Halloween costumes, or any season you want.

6. Compact fluorescent bulbs: Call your local Ikea store–many have units for recycling florescent bulbs, along with batteries and conventional recyclables. Earth911 has a great tool where you can enter your recyclable and zip code and it will give you a list of places that will accept that item.

7. Compostable bio-plastics: Compostable bioplastics include those cornstarch utensils and specially marked cups, which won’t break down quickly in your home compost bin like your food scraps do. Find a Composter has a tool for finding municipal composters for these types of items.

8. Computers and electronics: E-Stewards has a tool for finding responsible recyclers for computing waste which can be toxic and hard to break down.

9. Exercise videos: If you’ve done the same workouts a million times, swap them with others at Video Fitness. If you’re done with them forever, contact your closest e-waste station and see if they will accept them. Policies change frequently and the magnetic tape in VHS makes them particularly difficult to recycle.

10. Eyeglasses: Your local Lion’s Club or eye care chain may collect these. Lenses are reground and given to people in need. Often eye doctors’ offices will collect them, or even local libraries. Glasses are most often donated as-is to someone with a similar perscription. Reading glasses and non-perscription sunglasses can often be donated as well.

11. Foam packing: Your local pack-and-ship store will likely accept foam peanuts for reuse. Or, call the Plastic Loose Fill Producers Council to find a drop-off site. For places to drop off foam blocks for recycling, contact the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers.

12. Ink/toner cartridges: Recycleplace.org will pay a few cents for your old ink cartridges, up to $1 depending on the brand. If you bring your old cartridges to Staples, they will give you a $2 voucher you can use towards your new ink.

13. Oil: When the oil is being changed in your car, it can be re-refined and made into motor lubricants and other petroleum products. Earth911 has a tool to find which autoshops you can use to recycle oil in your zip code.

14. Phones: HopeLine is a program to provide cell phones to domestic violence survivors. Bring them to a Verizon or mail them in to donate. Office phones and corded phones can be recycled through Staples or another e-waste recycler.

15. Sports equipment: Resell or trade it at your local Play It Again Sports outlet or at Goodwill.

16. “Technotrash”: Staples’ e-waste program will take iPods, MP3 players, cell phones and chargers, digital cameras, PDAs, palm pilots, and more. Also, easily recycle all of your CDs, jewel cases, DVDs, audio and video tapes, pagers, rechargeable and single-use batteries, PDAs, and ink/toner cartridges with GreenDisk’s Technotrash program. For $11.95, GreenDisk will send you a cardboard box (or you can use your own) in which you can ship them up to 25 pounds of any of the above. Your fee covers the box as well as shipping and recycling fees.

17. Athletic and other shoes: MORE takes donations of lightly used running shoes which are resold to fund sustainable farming programs. Soles4Souls was founded after Hurricane Katrina, which gives shoes as a measure of disaster relief and to create micro-enterprises with a low cost product.

18. Toothbrushes and razors: Buy a recycled plastic toothbrush or razor from Preserve, a brand sold in many pharmacy stores as well as online. The company makes its products out of Stonyfield Farms yogurt cups and will take back its products to be made into plastic lumber. Bins that collect these and other products with the number 5 recycling symbol are collected in Preserve’s Gimme 5 bins, which are placed in 250 locations nationwide. They can also be sent in by mail.

19. Tyvek envelopes: Those tough, plasticky envelopes you get in the mail, those are Tyvek. The material is broken down and made into new plastics without consuming more oil resources. Quantities less than 25: Send to CFS Recycling, 337 A Industrial Drive, Petersburg, VA 23803. Quantities larger than 25, call 1-800/44-TYVEK.

20. Miscellaneous stuff: Get your unwanted items into the hands of people who can use them. Offer them up on your local Freecycle.org or Craigslist.org listserv.

21. Crayons: If you have broken crayons, or old mis-matched ones that are missing the box, send them to Crazy Crayons. This program collects crayons from around the country, melts them down, and sells 100% recycled crayons (in cute shapes and containers, too!).

The Rise and Fall of Salvage Yards

     I have been doing this blog for one year next month, and we have talked a lot about salvage yards. We talked about benefits, conditions, and aspects of the business, while explaining some common misconceptions dealing with recycling and the environment. My goal has always been to open people’s eyes about salvage yards; but with this month’s blog post, we are going to take a different approach. I am going to talk about the cold-hearted truth that “Salvage Yards” are vanishing all around the country and the world, but there is still hope for some.

     Why do you think salvage yards are closing down? Think about it a minute or two!  Well here are some answers. The economy goes down and up so many times that people do not have extra money to fix their project cars. Reason two is that there is the internet.  Everyone looks up what the part is online. They know the prices and details about the part. People want the cheapest price, and that is all that matters to them. They no longer care about the quality of the merchandise. Then you have all the aftermarket parts from China and different countries, which are cheaper.  You will have a customer for twenty years that no longer comes because they can get the parts they need from the internet. If you have ten of your customers doing that, then you will be losing a substantial profit.

     The third reason has to do with small business. Mom and Pop stores that service small towns are being bought up by big businesses that have stores in every city in the country. It is hard to compete with huge corporations with thousands of employees. They have the budget and the manpower that small businesses do not have.

     The fourth is that the price of scrap metal drops dramatically with no warning. You will have this huge amount of metal to scrap, and at the same time money continually going out. Then with no warning the price goes from $100 a ton to $20 a ton.

     The fifth and final reason is with the environment. People think that salvage yards hurt the land and the air, but some people make these accusations without getting all the facts. Yes, there are some places in the US that do not properly deal with oil, gasoline, and other liquids; which does leave a negative impact on the environment. But look at the salvage yard and get all your facts before making accusations about someone’s business.

     These are all serious reasons why salvage yards across the United States have either been forced to close down or close down because they are not making any money. It is so sad because salvage yards are a part of an era to many people, but I believe salvage yards are not over!

     A very important fact in staying open is being up to date with every possible regulation there is, especially the environmental ones. Recycling everything you can while staying on your toes. You can never be content with what the business is doing; you need to always push for more production and more customers. Always be on the lookout for new things to add to the business. We started off in 1954 by just selling auto parts, but look at us now. We continue to sell new and used parts; we have an auto repair.  We scrap junk cars and scrap metal, and we do town towing. That is just a list of the many things we do, but there is always more.

     Salvage yards still exist and are flourishing, but it will always be a struggle to get our name out there in a positive light. We will never give up the hope for salvage yards in the United Sates or the world. We will continue to push for the future of salvage yards everywhere.

 

The Salvage Yard

     This month’s blog post is about R. H. Willson. The past blog posts focused on different ways that the salvage yard recycles.  There are always more ways and more items to recycle, but I just wanted to have this month’s post focus on the business.

     My grandfather opened this business in 1954. He started off by selling auto parts. Overtime the business grew to have up to three different buildings. Down the road my parents bought the business in 1996 and expanded even further. In 1998 they started an auto repair on the premises. Bringing in different customers and staying competitive in the industry. One big change was computerizing everything. Changing all the paperwork from pen and paper to computer generated slips. That was a big change for the industry and everyone working here. Overtime people learned to love computers because it made work faster and more organized. With the help of the computers, the parts industry expanded. Now people can buy their parts online, over the phone, or walking in. The expansion was a necessary progression, but there were other avenues the salvage yard also explored.

     The auto repair was another great expansion to the business.  Fixing cars and buying parts go hand in hand allowing for our customers to have faster service. Eventually we expanded by getting more mechanics, which allowed us to help more customers.

     Another aspect of R. H. Willson is town towing and picking up junk cars. The town towing allows us to be involved in the town and get exposure by doing it. It is very convenient because if a car needs to get fixed, there is an auto repair on the premises to fix the car. As I said in the beginning of the paragraph, we also pick up junk cars, which lead us to our last point.

     Not too long ago, the business got a scale for scrap metal. You come to the salvage yard and drive over the scale, which weighs how much the metal is. It opened up another avenue of the business completely. People bring their scrap metal here, and we pick up junked cars for scrap metal. Getting rid of the excess metal in people’s houses or business helps the environment and our salvage yard.

     R. H. Willson is constantly improving and making adjustments so we can better help our customers. We have been opened since 1954; I hope there will be many more wonderful years of being innovative for this salvage yard and all salvage yards out there.