Plastic covers a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic materials that are moldable. Plastics are typically synthetic, most commonly derived from petrochemicals, but many are partially natural. There are seven basic categories of plastics, of which #1 PET and #2 HDPE are the most commonly recycled. With the growing movement toward single-stream recycling many recycling programs collect plastics #1-#7 with the exception of #6 expanded polystyrene (better known as styrofoam) and plastic bags and film.
In Michigan, some plastic beverage bottles can be recycled by returning them to the grocer, with a $0.10 deposit being returned to the customer. Check with your local grocer to see what beverage containers they accept.
Styrofoam and plastic film are generally separate from curbside collection programs because the nature of the material causes problems in the recycling process; expanded polystyrene breakdown down easliy and contaminates other recyclables, while plastic film often gets tangled in equipment. Mason-based, Dart Container provides some recycling opportunities for #6 expanded polystyrene. PlasticFilmRecycling.org provides information and resources for recycling plastic film grocery stores throughout the state.
Paper is manufactured most commonly from the pulp of wood. To accomplish this, trees must be harvested and chipped, combined with water, pulped, dried, and pressed into thin sheets. The method of harvesting trees varies, with some being more sustainable than others, but every method uses some amount of this finite resource. Unlike other recyclables, paper fibers have a limited recycled life. Higher quality papers require longer fibers. The recycling and remanufacturing process shortens the fibers and makes the recycled paper suitable for alternative and/or lower quality products. It is estimated by the EPA that manufacturing paper from recycled content requires only 60% of the energy it would take to manufacture the same product out of raw materials.
Learn about the recycled paper making process by watching this video:
We use paper in some way every day. Office, notebook, and newspaper are common and can be recycled easily. However, paper products aren’t always for reading and writing. Consider some of these:
Paper plates and bowls
Become more familiar with all the paper products you can recycle in your local program by calling your local recycling contact.
Cardboard is a high-volume, high-value common recyclable material. Referred to in the industry as Old Corrugated Cardboard (OCC), it has multiple layers; two flat outer layers, and one or more corrugated, or wavy, inner layers. It is often used in large packaging and shipping because of its heavy duty nature.
Boxboard, sometimes referred to as paperboard, is a thinner, single layer product mostly used in food and retail packaging. Cereal boxes, pasta boxes, cracker boxes, toilet paper/paper towel tubes are all examples of boxboard.
Frozen food items are often packaged in a coated boxboard that will resist water damage in storage and use. Coated boxboard many or may not be included in local recycling programs. Check with your local recycling authority.
Cardboard and boxboard are very commonly recycled items as the reuse market for them is generally robust. Check with your local community contact to find out where you can recycle them in your area.
We manufacture metal products using naturally occurring minerals found deep in the earth’s crust. Harvesting these minerals takes time, energy, and uses up a limited resource. Recycling metal products helps offset these costs. For example, manufacturing a new aluminum can from recycled aluminum takes only 5% of the energy as it would to manufacture the same can from raw materials! There are many different types of metal that have been recycled for a long time. Scrap yards often accept copper, aluminum, brass, and steel. These yards can be found in almost every community in Michigan, as metal retains its value over time.
Common household recyclables include:
For years, the steel manufacturing process has required recycled steel to produce new steel products. Additionally, aluminum cans be recycled many, many times without losing structure or quality, and are often back on the shelf within a few months of being put in your recycling bin. Watch this neat video about how aluminum cans are recycled:
The easiest way to recycle aluminum beverage cans in Michigan is by returning them to your local grocer to get your deposit back for recycling. All of these types of metals and other bulky metals can be recycled in most Michigan communities. Call your local recycling contact for information about metal recycling.
Glass is one of very few materials that can be recycled endlessly without losing its strength or quality. It is originally manufactured from materials like sand and ash, heated and molded into what we know as bottles and jars. Learn more facts and figures about glass recycling by reading this article from the Glass Packaging Institutue.
In Michigan, single-serve carbonated beverages contained in glass bottles require a $.10 deposit. When those containers are returned to the store for deposit redemption, they are recycled through product distributors.
Glass containers not covered under the Michigan Deposit Law are often included in community recycling programs. Glass can be challenging to handle for the recycling industry because it breaks and can damage equipment, contaminate other recycling streams and create working hazards. Many communities have stopped collecting glass, especially green glass, because it has a low market value and can create other problems for the program.
Different types of glass have different melting points. Some glass is made to withstand high temperatures, while others are made to hold cold drinks. Often beverage and food bottles and jars are the only type of glass accepted in local recycling programs. However, there may be other resources in your community for recycling window/plate glass. Check with your local recycling contact to see where you can safely recycle your glass.
Michigan law rightly prohibits the disposal of yard debris in landfills. When decomposed in the oxygen deprived environment of the landfill, yard debris breaks down and contributes to the release of harmful greenhouse gases. Additionally, organic materials disposed of in a landfill can't be used to replenish Michigan soils.
Many communities collect yard debris for composting at the curb or designated drop-off sites. A limited number of communities are also begining to consider adding food scraps to yard debris collection programs. Call your local recycling contact to learn about yard debris and other organic management in your community.
Composting yard debris and food scraps in your backyard, however, is easy. Earth Easy has created a handy backyard composting guide, or you can check out the video below.
"Special" materials are items that are not normally accepted through a curbside or drop off recycling program. Many of the following items need to be recycled in a special way, and are therefore only accepted at certain times or locations. Most of the following materials are common in every household. Choose the material you are interested in to learn more about why, how and where to recycle near you.
There are several different kinds of batteries:
Lead-Acid Automobile Batteries - Ninety-six percent of all lead-acid batteries are recycled. Almost any retailer that sells lead-acid batteries collects used batteries for recycling, as required by the state. Reclaimers crush batteries into nickel-sized pieces and separate the plastic components. They send the plastic to a reprocessor for manufacture into new plastic products and deliver purified lead to battery manufacturers and other industries. A typical lead-acid battery contains 60 to 80 percent recycled lead and plastic.
Non-Automotive Lead-Based Batteries - Gel cells and sealed lead-acid batteries are commonly used to power industrial equipment, emergency lighting, and alarm systems. The same recycling process applies as with automotive batteries. An automotive store may accept these batteries for recycling or a local recycling contact may have other resources available to you.
Dry-Cell Batteries - Dry-cell batteries include alkaline and carbon zinc (9-volt, D, C, AA, AAA), mercuric-oxide (button, some cylindrical and rectangular), silver-oxide and zinc-air (button), and lithium (9-volt, C, AA, coin, button, rechargeable). Alkaline batteries are everyday household batteries used in flashlights, remote controls, and other appliances now contain little no mercury. Most small, round “button-cell” type batteries found in items such as watches and hearing aids contain mercury, silver, cadmium, lithium, or other heavy metals as their main component. Button cells are increasingly targeted for recycling because of the value of recoverable materials, their small size, and their easy handling relative to other battery types. Several reclamation companies now process these batteries call your local recycling contact to find recycling opportunities in your area.
Rechargeable Batteries - Rechargable batteries are a responsible choice for portable energy and the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC), a nonprofit public service organization, targets four kinds of rechargeable batteries for recycling: nickel-cadmium (Ni-CD), nickel metal hydride, lithium ion, and small-sealed lead for recycling across the country. Their Call2Recycle! program offers various recycling options for communities, retailers, businesses, and public agencies.
Compact flourescent lighbulbs provide an energy efficient option to traditional incandescent lightbulbs. A small amount of mercury is safely contained in the CFL but if the CFL is broken or improperly disposed of, harmful mercury can be released. The U.S. EPA provides guidance on the safe cleanup of broken CFLs.
Unfortunately, older style incandescent bulbs and fluorescent tubes are not recyclable.
See Product Stewardship - Pharmaceuticals for more information on the life cycle of a pharmaceutical substance.
See Product Stewardship - Electronics
As household appliances become more energy efficient, many utility companies are providing incentives to recycle old appliances. Refrigerators and freezers, air conditioners and dehumidifiers require a lot of energy and more effiicient models will save you money. These appliances also contain freon, which is harmful to the environment if released, so proper handling is important. Conact your local utility and inquire about appliance recycling programs that make recycling easy. HP, Apple, and other computer manufacturers have programs for takeback as well.
Stoves, dishwashers, washers and dryers all contain enough metal to be valuable. Talk to your local waste hauler about recycling options for these and other household appliances. You may be able to have it collected from your curb for a small fee. You may also be able to deliver it to a special collection program, or even make a little money at the local salvage yard. Call your local recycling contact for more information.
Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) is a catch all word for any household product that may be toxic to human health or the environment and/or requires special handling for proper disposal. You may be surprised to find so many of these products in your home. Identfiy them by looking for words of WARNING, CAUTION, or DANGER. These products generally have characteristics that make them flammable, volatile, toxic, corrosive, caustic, reactive, or poisonous. If the product contain phosphates or if use may irritate eyes, is harmful if swollowed or you need to wear protection when using the product, then you are probably using a common household hazardous waste.
It's best to choose non-toxic, biodegradable, environmentally safe products. Buy only the amount of product you need, store properly, and use the product up entirely. If you have remaining product to condier first recycling options. Many automotive fluids; motor or brake oil, transmission fluid and antifreeze can often be recycled through local service stations. Many of the materials in this "Special materials" section fall under the HHW category and most Michigan counties provide seasonal collection events or will take these materials by appointment for proper disposal. Call your local or county recycling contact for more information. Here's a list of common HHW:
· Oven cleaners
· Drain cleaners
· Wood and metal cleaners and polishes
· Toilet cleaners
· Tub, tile, shower cleaners
· Bleach (laundry)
· Pool chemicals
· Ant sprays and baits
· Cockroach sprays and baits
· Flea repellents and shampoos
· Bug sprays
· Houseplant insecticides
· Moth repellents
· Mouse and rat poisons and baits
· Motor oil
· Fuel additives
· Carburetor and fuel injection cleaners
· Air conditioning refrigerants
· Starter fluids
· Automotive batteries
· Transmission and brake fluid
· Adhesives and glues
· Furniture strippers
· Oil or enamel based paint
· Stains and finishes
· Paint thinners and turpentine
· Paint strippers and removers
· Photographic chemicals
· Fixatives and other solvents
Lawn and Garden Products
· Fungicides/wood preservatives
· Mercury thermostats or thermometers
· Fluorescent light bulbs
· Driveway sealer
· Antibacterial soap and gel products
· Septic tank cleaners
Other Flammable Products
· Propane tanks and other compressed gas cylinders
· Home heating oil
· Diesel fuel
· Gas/oil mix
· Lighter fluid
Automotive fluids can generally be recycled at local service stations. Motor and brake oil, transmission fluids, antifreeze, batteries, and tires can all be recycled and generally are recycled if you use a service stations. Do it yourself car care means having to go that extra step to take the waste to the proper place. Call your local recycling contact or sevice station for some ideas.
When you think of recycling, would you think of hauling your car, boat, or other automotive to a recovery facility? Probably not. There are other great ways in Michigan to make sure your auto gets recycled or reused.
If your vehicle is still in decent, functioning condition, consider donating it to an organization that can pass it on for reuse to a family in need.
Many of these options offer a tax deduction. Check with the program you are interested in and the State of Michigan to see if your donation will qualify.
**Note: The Michigan Recycling Coalition does not endorse any of the programs listed above- they are listed here as resources. Be sure to research the program you choose carefully before donating a vehicle.**
If your vehicle is not functional anymore, you can still find a way to recycle it. Many salvage yards buy “junk” cars, boats, and motorcycles to harvest the functioning parts, which can then be resold. The remaining portion of the vehicle is often crushed and recycled into new steel. Check with salvage yards in your area to see what their recycling process is like. 98% of all vehicles in Michigan are recycled.
Watch this video on the lifecycle of a car:
The best way to make sure you don’t have to find a place for book waste is to check one out from your local library instead of buying it. This way it is reused over and over again by many different people.
If you have to own a book, or your local library doesn’t have it in stock, consider buying it used. Sites like Half and Amazon have used books for sale. Check with your local bookstores too!
When it does come time to part with your books, you can consider selling or donating them if they are still in good condition. Book stores, thrift stores and local libraries will often take donations of used books for resale or reuse.
Organizations like Better World Books will take donations in a “box” site drop off. They provide large, metal containers where you can drop off your books through a door or slot. The books are then sent to areas of the world where they are needed.
Some local recycling drop off sites will take books that are no longer in good condition. The covers, bindings and paper from the books is then recycled separately into new commodities. Check with your community contact to find out if books can be recycled near you.
Phone books are quickly becoming obsolete for most people these days. Internet and technology allow us to look up phone numbers, addresses and more on our computers, tablets and smartphones. If you still receive phone books but wish not to, yellowpages offers an "opt out" option. You can sign up for it here.
Clothing, shoes and accessories can be recycled in many different ways. The type and quality of an item will determine what method you should use.
If your clothes, shoes or accessories are still in good, wearable condition, consider donating them to a resale or consignment shop. Goodwill Industries, Volunteers of America, and local thrift stores will take donations of gently used clothing, shoes, accessories, household items, and sometimes furniture. Check with your local store to see what items they will take.
Purple Heart, in partnership with donatestuff.com, will also take donations of gently used clothing. They offer mail in and curbside pick-up options for donations. Visit their website to schedule a donation.
Organizations like One World Center will also take donations of clothes and shoes at “box” locations. You have probably seen something similar- large metal containers often in parking lots where you can deposit your donations through a door or slot. The items they receive are then sent to families in need. Check out their website to find the location of a box near you.
If your clothing items have reached the end of their life, and are no longer in good shape, you can still recycle them! The Council for Textile Recycling and the Soex Group have some great guidelines and information on recycling your old textiles.
Companies like Patagonia, H&M, and The North Face have started programs for collection of old textiles that can be broken down and made into new garments.
Furniture and mattresses are good candidates for reuse.
Typical furniture items include couches, chairs, desks, tables, mattresses and box springs, dressers, etc. If you have any of these items that are still in decent condition, consider selling them in a yard sale or donating them to a local thrift shop. Goodwill, Volunteers of America, Salvation Army, and many independent resale shops will accept furniture donations or may buy the furniture from you if it is in good condition.
While more difficult to recycle, mattress recycling programs are popping up across the country and even in Michigan. Mattresses and furniture must be taken apart by hand and separated into their components; steel springs, wood framing, cotton and foam stuffing and fabric, for successful recycling. Each component is separated, baled and sold as a commodity on the open market.
Many communities have recycling events where you can bring your bulky furniture to be recycled. Call your local charity or recycling contact for information about reuse and recycling opportunities near you.