As described in my last blog post, I recommend breaking down spring cleaning into a number of manageable steps - three major steps including separating and purging, cleaning and organizing.
The first step separating and purging starts with dividing all your items into four piles. The first was trash and now that you have that out the door. We can move on to the next pile - recycling. This pile has the potential to be a lot bigger than expected (in comparison to your trash pile), which is good because that means that less will go to a landfill. Last year, for the second time, I attended a clean-up hosted by United by Blue and the amount of trash we picked up in just a few hours was astounding. The Delaware River has some great views, but when you get up close you can really see how much hazardous waste there is in our waterways.
Here I break down recycling into two groups. The first is the obvious, which are paper, metal and plastic. These are the items that are picked up by your city or township at least once a week. I would review what items are actually recyclable, because often a lot of assumptions are made. For example, not all plastics are for regular recycling (there are usually rules regarding which numbers are able to be recycled by your city or township). Also, not all areas can take shredded paper because it has the potential to damage recycling equipment.
The second recycling group are items that are not so obvious, which includes electronics, glues and paints (even nail polish). These all need to be taken to specialized facilities. In the case of electronics this is for your security as well as protection of the environment.
Luckily, there are solutions to many issues that you may arise when figuring out what to recycle where. Most solutions are only a Google Search away, but below are some tips for specific items.
Start by getting gathering old magazines, newspapers, boxes from items that have surpassed their warranty etc. These items can be put in the recycle bin. For any confidential documents I would suggest shredding them. If you do not have a shredder or the time to shred items yourself, there are shredding services offered by companies such as Staples or Proshred. Also, many townships and counties have a day that residents can drop off their confidential documents for free professional shredding services.
Do you have any outdated or broken electronics? Those need to be recycled at special facilities for several reasons. First, electronics can be full of a number of toxins including cadmium, arsenic and lead. If these items end up in a land-fill the contents have the potential to be absorbed by our ecosystem. Second, your computer could still have confidential information on it that could fall into the wrong hands. Check with your township or country to find the closest electronic recycling facility.
Getting rid of anything that could be toxic such as glues or paints? These need to be recycled at special facilities as well. Oftentimes large recycling centers that have a specific area for recycling electronics will also have specific areas to recycle liquid toxins as well. You would be surprised how many items in a home are toxic. Even nail polish should be disposed of properly.
Disposal of Unused Medicines
There are specific directions provided by the FDA.
Tip: If you feel like you do not have enough items to warrant a trip to a specialized recycling center there are two things you can do. First, you can wait until you have recycling piles for several spaces in your home or you can team up with a neighbor or friend that needs to do some spring cleaning as well. It is was easier to unload the car with two people rather than one, especially if you are recycling larger items like televisions.
In my next blog post, I will be discuss the third spring cleaning pile - Donate. This is often the most rewarding part of the entire process. For those of you living in or around Philadelphia, I will have a special list of places to donate goods.