Past the Blue Bin: Recycling More Than Paper Plastics and Glass

Recycling is gathering and processing items that would otherwise be thrown away and turning them into new items. Recycling is beneficial for the environment as it decreases the amount of garbage thrown into landfills and incinerators and also decreases the necessity to collect new raw materials. You’re probably aware of some of the things you can recycle, such as paper, glass, and plastic. However, did you know that you can also recycle metal, cardboard, batteries and electronics?


You’re probably already aware that you can recycle aluminum cans like soda cans. Don’t crush the cans before putting them into the recycling bin. You can also recycle pie plates and foil trays. Before putting them in the bin, remove as much food as possible.

Aerosol cans should be empty before you turn them in for recycling. Plastic caps should be removed unless they are part of the can itself. You can leave the spray nozzle and label on the can.

You can also recycle scrap metal. Before you take your scrap metal to a local scrap yard, you’ll need to separate it into piles of ferrous and non-ferrous metals—metals that contain iron and metals that don’t. You can use a magnet to separate your metals. Even a magnet from your refrigerator will do the trick. If the magnet sticks to the metal, the metal is ferrous. Ferrous metals include steel and iron. If the magnet doesn’t stick, you have a piece of non-ferrous metal, such as aluminum, stainless steel, brass, bronze, or copper. A scrap yard may pay you for your scrap metal. You’ll typically receive more money for non-ferrous metals.


Cardboard boxes need to be flattened or broken down before being placed into a recycling bin. However, you do not need to remove tape from the boxes. You should cut cardboard into pieces no bigger than two feet by two feet. If you want to recycle pizza boxes, cut out the greasy part of the box before throwing the remaining part into the recycling bin.


You can recycle single-use, rechargeable, and automotive batteries. Rechargeable batteries include lithium, nickel cadmium, small sealed lead-acid, nickel metal hydride, and most button batteries. You can check with local stores to see if they participate in the national call2recycle program, which accepts batteries for recycling. Alternatively, you can recycle batteries through most household hazardous waste collection events.

It is now safe to dispose of single-use batteries, such as AA, AAA, and D-cell batteries in the trash. You can recycle single-use batteries, but you usually have to pay a fee to recycle them. Call your local recycling centers to see which ones accept single-use batteries. Alternatively, you can use a mail-in program to recycle single-use batteries.

Automotive batteries are generally turned in for recycling when you get your battery changed. Some household hazard waste collection programs will also take automotive batteries.


Before turning any electronics in for recycling, make sure that you wipe them clean of all your personal information, which typically involves more than just deleting files off the device. Many communities host special days in which you can turn in your electronics for recycling. You’ll need to check with your local program, but many programs accept laptops, CPUs, faxes, keyboards, televisions, coffee machines, blenders, DVD players, mouse devices, digital cameras, cell phones, video recorders, DVRs, toasters, vacuums, video game consoles, and external hard drives.

Recycling is one thing you can do to help the environment. Go beyond the basics, and take the time to recycle batteries, electronics, cardboard, and metals.

Anita Ginsburg, the author, is a Freelance Writer

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