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About time we made recycling and re-using a part of our daily activities. Most commonly used items from paper to clothing to computers can be repaired, remade or re-used by mending or repairing, holding a yard sale or donating them among other things.

Today recycling is a worldwide phenomenon in which, apart from Governments, large organizations and groups are actively involved. More and more people are learning not to send common household items to the local landfills, but to recycle and reuse them in a variety of ways. Global organizations have come up which accept such items and primarily use them for charitable purposes all over the world. Therefore, products used and discarded by you may be used by the poor and needy in some small developing country, or money raised from their sale for other noble causes like research for cancer treatment.

Numerous recycling marketplaces have emerged which give householders a wide scope to offer their used products, either for money, exchange or as charity.


[edit] What is Recycling?

Get Involved!
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle at every home
Waste Not Want Not
Faecal Attraction: Political Economy of Defecation (Sewage and Waste Disposal)
Construction waste

Recycling mainly involves three steps: collecting, manufacturing and selling. Collecting is gathering material which can be recycled from the neighborhood or industries, clearing and separating them. Manufacturing is mixing with other material to manufacture new products. The last stage is selling the finished products to customers.

The energy used to manufacture our household goods like furniture, kitchen equipment, TV, toys, clothes and food is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emission. By recycling these products we not only reduce the demand for their raw material but also reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emission.

An interesting case in point is that recycling aluminum takes only 5% of the energy needed for its original production. Adding old glass to batches of new glass reduces the energy requirement of the furnaces by up to 25%.

[edit] Recycling: Begins at Home. The World Benefits

Waste from household items

Waste produced from household items represents only a small percent of the total waste created, but contains large quantities of organic waste which is the cause of pollution. Household waste also contains large amount of glass and plastic material which do not break down easily and add to the problem. Most households do not recycle waste products and throw them all into the common garbage bin. Therefore, major emphasis is needed towards recycling household waste.

It is important to ensure that you dispose of your used items in such a way that they are not misused. It is likely that the old computer you have tossed into the bin was collected by some recycle program and exported to countries like China to recycle and make some other goods which return to your house carrying all the harmful elements. In this way some high levels of toxic wastes had been found in China made jewellery which used toxic waste from the US and other developing countries.

[edit] No Limit to Recycling at Home

Extraction of virgin material and their processing cause pollution and enormous amount of health risks which can be avoided by recycling. Every can, bottle, paper that we throw away can be recycled to make similar new products. It is estimated that around 67% steel produced in the United States is from recycled steel. Over 40% of aluminum production is from recovered aluminum.

Recycling paper reduces the paper industry’s need for virgin wood pulp. We thereby save trees and allow them to absorb more carbon and generate oxygen. After fossil fuel combustion, landfills are the next highest greenhouse gas producer. By recycling organic waste such as leaves, grass clippings we reduce production of methane, another major greenhouse gas which have greater climate change potential than carbon dioxide.

Recycling for money

In some states in the United States you can recycle for money. There are also places which offer cash or merchandise for ink jet cartridges or cell phones.

Today recyclable materials are purchased by several buyback centers that pay you according to the weight of material collected. Recyclable materials include paper, cans, bottles, cardboard, etc. You can also sell old furniture to shops that specialize in these. These are then given a facelift and resold to those who require used furniture.


This is an activity which is a combination of donation and recycling. It is a network of neighbors and business which gives away used items free for reuse and thereby prevents them from going to the landfill. Normally freecyclers get together in groups for the exchanges, though on occasions items are shipped to other areas.

Similarly bigger business houses can freecycle furniture and hardware to smaller offices.


There are several groups where you can list several items which you no longer need in your house and sell them at a minimum cost or distribute free. Most of these are meant for average everyday householders and those with profit motive are not entertained. It not only helps clear your clutter, but also saves landfill/prevents dumping (plus, you get good stuff at cheap rates).

Also new-moms can trade/give away baby stuff which anyway has a short lifespan. Parents of school-going kids can pass on text books/uniforms to lower classes; hotels/restaurants can be talked into selling standard leftovers at nominal rates for orphanages/old-age homes. Feed the Children [1] will take blankets and shawls; toweling or muslin nappies and pins; petroleum jelly; baby soap and shampoo; baby clothes; knitted jumpers, cardigans, hats, mittens, bootees for babies and toddlers. Real Aid [2] takes exercise books, pencils/pens, crayons, dictionaries, calculators to make up educational packs for distribution among children in Africa and Eastern Europe

Recycling through repair

Another way of recycling is repairing worn out items, especially clothes. Repairing apparently is catching on again, and several outlets are available which help you reinvent your clothes and make them last for many more years.

Ceramics and wooden items can be repaired using respective glues which are likely to be available at your nearby hardware stores. Electrical items, however, need to be repaired by an expert

Recycling eyeglasses

Your discarded eye glasses can also be recycled to help people in some developing countries who don’t have proper eye care centers. The World Health Organization (WHO), has estimated that 44% of men, women, and children in developing countries are in need of eyeglasses but do not have them .People in developed countries, who often own several pairs of eyeglasses, have the opportunity to donate their discarded eyeglasses for such needy people. Lions Club International[3]has been recycling eyeglasses for decades.

Computers For a small fee you can have your old computer picked up for recycling. Visit here [4]

You can recycle your wireless phones and their accessories, help our environment, help a charity or get some cash. This website [5] can help you locate a local donation center, find a charity you want to support, direct you to a mail-back program or direct you to an on-line auction where you can sell your old mobile phone(s).

Recycling as donation

A charitable organization based in Oxford, UK, is collecting old mobile phone and printer cartridge which they recycle to raise funds for their breast cancer research projects. You can take part in the project by visiting this website [6] Another group, Cartridges for Charity [7] is into similar operations.

[edit] Recycling Common Household Items

  • Chemicals -- Household chemicals are not only harmful to the environment but also to your health. There are safe alternatives to chemicals such as coffee grounds and chili powder which can be in the garden to ward off ants. Prefer unbleached, recycled paper. Contact your local council or environment department and find out different ways of disposing of chemicals.
  • Paint -- Pouring paint down the drain can damage our environment. Unwanted paint should be brushed out on newspaper, allowed to dry, then placed in domestic waste. After use dry out the containers in an open area, then recycle through available recycling programs.
  • Glass -- Heating is required for glass making and non-recycled glass needs much higher temperature to make than recycled glass. Recycling glass thus saves energy.
    • What glass can be recycled?'
      • Clear, green or brown bottles
      • Glass jars (including labels)
  • What can’t be recycled?
      • Ceramic plates, cups and crockery
      • China
      • Light globes (energy saving globes need special recycling)
      • Mirrors and window glass
  • Paper and cardboard -- Newspapers should be saved in its own bin, as this material goes directly back into newsprint recycling. Recycling a four-foot stack of newspapers saves the equivalent of one 40-foot fir tree.
    • Magazines, glossy printed flyers or newspaper inserts, phone books, envelopes, computer paper, old letters, and paper packaging can be saved together in one bin.
    • Staples can remain in the paper but rubber bands or plastic wraps need to be removed.
    • Do not include carbon paper, stickers, cardboard, laminated paper, laminated cardboard among items to be recycled.
    • Plastic-lined paper drink cartons are recyclable. Discard plastic fast food wrappers and stained paper tissues or napkins.
    • Corrugated cardboard. You will normally be required to bale the cardboard together and tie it with string. It should also be kept dry Plastic or waxy coated and wet or greasy cardboard, such as pizza boxes, cannot be recycled.
  • Plastic -- Plastics are one of the worst polluters. They don’t degrade easily and remain in the environment for very long.
    • Plastic bottles are a valuable recyclable material. Among many other items, this plastic can be "spun' into fleece fabric. Tops should be removed before recycling, and put in with your general plastic items.
    • Most grocery stores have bins outside so customers can drop off used plastic bags for recycling. Polystyrene (cups, food trays, egg cartons, etc) are not biodegradable and hence you are advised to use this material as less as possible.
  • Oil Recycling -- In order to enjoy a green environment you first need to focus on your car. If you recycle the oil that you change in your car, change your own car oil, you can avoid using as much new oil. To properly recycle your oil, you should:
    • While draining the oil be careful not to spill it as most used oil has toxic additives which are harmful to people and the environment.
    • For additional safety keep the oil into a sealed spill proof container.
    • Do not add other car fluids to the container.
    • Go to your nearest recycling center and pour it carefully into the oil recycling bin.
  • Other household products which can be recycled are:
    • Garden Supplies-- Hoses, planters and mulch.
    • Clothing and accessories--Tennis shoes and hiking boots. Clothing fabric made of recycled plastic bottles.
    • Home maintenance--Carpeting, door mats, roofing, wallboard, paint, insulation, gutters and down spouts, siding and flooring.
    • Office supplies-- Copier and printer papers, notepads, remanufactured toner cartridges, bulletin boards, rulers, scissors, pencils and refurbished office furniture.

We need not limit recycling only to bottles and cans. Even simple everyday household items can be recycled to save the environment: It is not uncommon to have unused address labels piling up. These can be used on books you loan out or your office stapler, for example.

  • Use a wire hanger from the dry cleaner to remove static from clothes, running the long side over your pants and between your pants and socks.
  • An empty matchbook can be used as a sewing kit with a few needles stored in them.
  • If the jump rope is lying unused convert it to an indoor clothesline. It can also be used for tying down items in an over-filled trunk.
  • You can convert a cardboard tray of a case of soda to a great disposable kitty litter box. The plastic that comes attached to the cardboard will keep the tray from leaking.

[edit] Reusing to Save the Environment

A number of items can be put to reuse by others who need them or given to charity. Here are some options:


  • Give to Charity
  • Give it to a friend/relative/workmate/classmate
  • Sell through local newspaper/trading post/internet


Give to CharityReal Aid [8] takes books

• Give them to libraries/community groups

• Give them to a friend/relative/workmate/classmate

• Read It, Swap It [9] UK's free book swap shop.


• Repair if it still works

• Give to Charity

• Give to Friend/relative

• Sell through local newspaper/trading post/internet


• Reuse: mend and wear, use as a rag

• Give to Charity - Real Aid [10] accepts

• Give it to a friend/relative/workmate/classmate

• Garage sale

Coat hangers

• Give to Charity

• Dry cleaners may take them

• Garbage bin


• Get in touch with the computer manufacturer and ask them to take the item back

• Trade it in for a new one

• Donate to a local school/community group/charity

Electrical goods

• Contact the computer’s manufacturer and request they take item back or ask for advice on how to responsibly dispose.

• Repair and reuse

• Give to Charity

• Give it to a friend/relative/workmate/classmate

• Sell through local newspaper/trading post/internet

• Sell to a local second-hand dealer

Furniture (household)

• Charity

• Give it to a friend/relative/workmate/classmate

• Sell through local newspaper/trading post/internet

• Council Clean up


• Charity • Give it to a friend/relative/workmate or local doctor / dental surgery, retirement home

Motor vehicles/motor bikes

• Give it to a friend/relative/workmate/classmate

• Trade it in

• Sell your old car through newspaper/internet/trading post

Musical instrument

• Give to Charity

• Local second hand office furniture retailer

• Sell through local newspaper/trading post/internet

Office furniture

• Charity

• Local second hand office furniture retail

• Sell through local newspaper/trading post/internet

Printer Cartridges

• Recycle ink and toner cartridges & Get Paid

Recycle ink and toner cartridges & Get Paid [11] Latest prices to download

[edit] Composting

It is known that all biodegradable things will compost. Use your backyard or a community composting site to compost your waste. Here are a few simple tips on what composts and how.

  • Young weeds (before they develop seeds); comfrey leaves; yarrow; chicken or pigeon manure; grass cuttings; old potting soil etc. are items that will activate the heat process in your compost.
  • Fruit and vegetables; fruit and vegetable scraps; coffee grounds and tea leaves (including tea bags); vegetable plant remains; plants; cardboard & cardboard tubes (from foil wraps etc); old flowers (including dried floral displays, minus plastic/foam attachments); old straw and hay; fall (autumn) leaves; rabbit, gerbil and hamster bedding; egg shells; dead plants and weeds; hair (human, dog, cat etc.) are items that compost well.
  • Try to compost non-traditional items such as: paper towels; paper bags; sawdust; cotton clothing (torn up).
  • Turn and mix the pile once or twice a week to kill the anaerobic bacteria. An anaerobic bacterium decomposes very slowly compared to aerobic bacteria and gives out a very strong stink. Turning the pile helps the compost to decompose in a shorter period of time.
  • Colder climates have a shorter composting season. In such climates it is advisable to add slow rotting items such as: tough branches, twigs and hedge clippings; wood ash; wood shavings and wood prunings.
  • Bread, pasta, nuts, cooked food, newspapers don't break down as easily on composting and become quite slimy and delay the heating, rotting-down process.
  • Same applies to the following items also: meat and meat scraps; bones; fish and fish bones; plastic or synthetic fibers; oil or fat; pet feces; weeds that have gone to seed; diseased plants; disposable diapers (nappies); glossy magazines; coal and coke ash; cat litter. These items should be removed in the normal garbage collection.

Recommended composting items

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Tea bags
  • Coffee grounds
  • Old flowers
  • Bedding plants
  • Old straw & hay
  • Vegetable plant remains
  • Strawy manures
  • Young hedge clippings
  • Soft prunings
  • Perennial weeds
  • Gerbil, hamster & rabbit bedding

[edit] Buy Recycled

Value of recyclables is driven by market demand. As consumers, we must choose products with recycled content and packaged in recycled materials, so that the materials we recycle are put to use, and markets are sustained. These products can typically be made with recycled content:

[edit] Raising Recycling Awareness

Make people aware of the facilities available to them locally. Most people do not know about the existence of recycling center in their city. Education and word of mouth are effective ways of increasing awareness.

[edit] References

  • Disposable options for common household items
  • Simple Tips: Every Day Recycling
  • How to Compost
  • Household recycling
  • Nappies
  • Promoting composting in your community

[edit] Additional Information

  • In the US Computertakeback (see The Looming E-Waste Tsunami) carries out sustained campaigns for environmental management of discarded computers and other household electrical gadgets
  • For Composting Hints and Tips see Compost hints & tips
  • For plastic recycling see, [12]
  • Greener Solutions, a global provider of innovative environmental solutions offer mobile recycling schemes for all sections including individuals, communities, business and charities.
  • To find a freecycle group in your area or can form a group by visiting this website [Freecycle].
  • Sites that buy reusable products
    • Reusable seat and floor covers for servicing automobiles. Visit [13]
    • bags and bag dryers
    • Bag-E-Wash and reusable bag
    • wraps
    • watches
    • Visit for Green Batteries