Be a Better Recycler

If you ever look at a piece of garbage and think, “I have no idea what to do with this,” read this post.

Living Green

We can all do a better job reducing, reusing, and recycling. Here are some guidelines and links that can help you live a greener life.

1. Know the local rules.

Every town has different recycling programs, guidelines, and types of drop-off stations. Visit the website for your town or city to make sure you really know how recycling works where you live.

Recycling in York County, PA

Looking for new homes in York County? Even if you already live there, you'll want to learn about the local places to recycle your trash. You'll feel good about doing your part.

2. Be aware of contamination issues.

Are you hip to the fact that batteries shouldn't be tossed in the trash? Because batteries contain hazardous compounds that can pollute our soil and water, take them to a local consumer electronics chain like Best Buy, that has a recycling program. Other harmful items include CFL light bulbs, toner cartridges, electronics equipment, car fluids, and paint. Check Earth 911 for places to recycle these items in your area.

3. Understand your garbage.

What are you doing with your wine corks, CDs, and candy wrappers? Real Simple has a great A to Z guide on how to handle random garbage, such as old crayons (send them to the National Crayon Recycle Program—they'll make them into new crayons).

4. Buy products made from recycled materials.

Get this: According to Treehugger, 544,000 trees would be saved if every household in the U.S. replaced one roll of virgin fiber paper towels with 100 percent recycled ones. Bottom line—try to buy toilet paper, paper towels, facial tissues, and other items made from recycled materials.

5. Plastics aren't created equal.

Most curbside programs take only #1 and #2 of the seven types of recycled plastics. Type in your ZIP code at and find out which plastics your local recycling center accepts. If your town or city doesn't accept what you'd like to recycle, Earth 911 can suggest another disposal option.

6. Remove labels and lids.

Give the people at the recycling center a hand. Take off the paper labels and metal lids off jars, and the plastic caps on drink containers. Put the labels into paper recycling, and the metal lids sorted with aluminum and tin.

7. Rinse your containers.

If you leave bits of leftover food in your disposable containers, not only will your recycling bin become dirty, you risk soiling other items in the bin (and dirty items are often unable to be recycled). This is especially true if your town has “single-stream recycling” and all papers, plastics, and metals are mixed in the same bin.

8. Keep your paper dry.

If your newspapers aren't kept in sealed bins, and it rains, they'll get soggy and damaged, and won't be able to be recycled.

9. Collapse all your containers.

It might be a pain, but remember to fold down cardboard boxes, and other paper packaging like milk and juice containers (otherwise someone else has to do it).

Ryan Homes Tip: Did you know that cardboard pizza boxes aren't recyclable because the oil from pizza ruins the recycling process? Instead, trash the dirty part of the box, and put the clean part with the recyclables.