In the United States, people recycled over 60% of the paper they used in 2014, over 9% of plastics in 2013, and about 26% of the glass used in 2014 according to the Environmental Protection Agency. While this shows that people usually recycle certain materials, there are many other materials that can be recycled as well. In our Recycling During the Summer article, such materials were briefly mentioned; but let’s dig deeper into the world of lesser-known recyclables. While these can be recycled, make sure that you take them to a recycling center or put them in your personal recycle bin and not a recycling bin at Georgia College. Recycling bins at Georgia College are only for materials listed on the Sustainability FAQ page and cross contamination would hinder recycling efforts on campus.
Fig. 1. Lesser known recyclables such as shoes, batteries, aluminum pans, and glass.
Aluminum is used to make cans, foil, kitchen utensils, and many other items. Almost all aluminum products are recyclable if free of contamination from food. Aluminum cans can be recycled on campus but to recycle other aluminum foil items such as baking pans and trays contact your local municipality to ensure the items can be placed in the recycling stream. The process that aluminum goes through to be recycled is called Secondary Production and the process can be read about here. You can recycle most aluminum foil items by making sure that they are clean of any grease and oils before putting them into the recycle bin. If food is baked onto the foil, and can’t be easily removed by cleaning, then dispose of the items instead. Before recycling any aluminum, items contact your local municipality to see if they take them. Attaway Recycling, Newell Recycling, and Milledgeville Recycling Center accept aluminum items for recycling in the Georgia area.
You can also recycle glass depending on the color and chemical makeup, as well as your location. Glass tends be categorized by color – brown, green, or clear – and the category typically determines what its use. Brown glass tend to be used for alcoholic beverages; green, for wine; and clear, for food that will not be effected by sunlight. If recycling glass, just put the bottles into your recycling bin and do not attempt to break them on your own. The recycling process that glass goes through is called Closed Loop recycling because the waste material is transformed back into its original form. Recycling glass is a complicated process that not many recycling centers take part in, so make sure to contact your local municipality to see if they recycle glass or not. In Georgia, Strategic Materials in Atlanta, Sandy Springs Recycling Center in Sandy Springs, and The City of Smyrna Recycling Center in Smyrna, Georgia, all recycle glass.
Car, button, and rechargeable batteries can all be recycled. Many automotive retailers offer to recycle old batteries for you. Button batteries such as the ones used in watches can also be recycled. Recycling batteries is very important due to the toxic chemicals that would be released by improper disposal. You can recycle batteries by taking them to Lowe’s, Staples, or Best Buy. These retailers will have a battery recycle box where you safely deposit your old batteries. For safety purposes make sure to place tape on both ends of rechargeable batteries to prevent any chance of sparks.
Christmas lights can be recycled due to their copper and plastic components. Recycling centers and some retailers are willing to take old Christmas lights and properly recycle them. Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs) are recyclable and the EPA recommends recycling them due to the mercury present in such bulbs. Almost every part of CFLs are recyclable and you can recycle them at local retailers or at your local waste collection agency. Other items that are recyclable are sneakers which can be recycled at Nike or Converse by dropping them in the drop box or mailing them. You can also donate old sneakers to organizations such as the MORE Foundation, where they will be use your donation to plant trees and teach sustainable agroforestry in other countries.
Before recycling any of the above check with your local recycling center to see if they take certain items. Some items are rarely recycled so a municipality may choose not to recycle them because of lack of interest or difficulty in handling. If you are unsure of what recycling centers are near, and the materials they recycle, you can use Earth911’s Recycling Search to find recycling centers near you. Also make sure to avoid cross-contamination or recycling materials corroded by food particles. One unclean item can ruin an entire load of recyclable materials. If you have any questions about recycling, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns. Make sure to recycle more of these lesser-known recyclables around you!