I am an avid recycler. I don't recall when I first started, but it seems that as long as there has been a facility that would accept my used items I've taken them. As it does with most people, it all started out innocently enough; I recycled aluminum cans, glass, plastics (#1 and #2), paper, cardboard, and tin cans. Where I might diverge from the general population is that I will recycle everything that falls into these categories. Every cardboard tube at the center of toilet paper and paper towels. All my junk mail, and every scrap of paper. I look at every plastic container trying to identify the type number.
We live in a tiny town (Jamestown, MO) that doesn't offer curbside recycling services. They didn't even have recycling bins for the community to place their items into. So, we hauled them into town when we went shopping (20-30 minutes away), either Jefferson City or California.
After living here for a few years I started to feel we could do better. I was on my children's school's PTO board. One day I suggested that we work with the school and the city to start up a recycling program, which we did. Now we have containers in our little town to collect the basic items and now my recycling drop-off time decreases significantly.
It didn't take very long, however, before I found myself questioning items I had to throw in the trash versus the recycle bin because they were not accepted by our local recycling companies. I was finding it very frustrating that I was unable to recycle other types of plastics (#3 - #7). Then we have the cardboard/plastic hybrid containers that are used with orange juice, almond milk, juice boxes, etc. I stumbled upon a solution. My mother lives in a city that accepts these items. Simple. I just collect them and then transport it all to her recycling bin whenever I go to visit. Not so simple. I go to visit only two to three times a year and she lives 320 miles away. When our four-member family goes for a visit I cram recycling items into every available space in our already full car.
Now you are probably asking yourself, what about those CFL light bulbs or rechargeable batteries. I recycle them at Lowe’s. That’s all well and good, but what about ink cartridges? I take those to Staples.
For those of you who do not have a genetic disposition towards recycling, you may think I'm a bit obsessed. Maybe, maybe not. But I'm only getting started! I found myself looking beyond the fundamental recycling materials into more complex items. I began disassembling electronics and recycling the components (this is a whole blog for another time). I also started taking in scrap metal. The nice thing about both of these is that I get paid for them!
As I already mentioned, we live in a very small town. Our school is very small also, and as with most, struggles financially. Again, as a member of the PTO board, I suggested that we add a new recycling program. We sent word into the community that we would start taking used electronics to recycle to raise money for the school. People came out of the woodwork and I was flooded with more than I could handle. Trailer load after trailer load. One television here, one computer there. If it ran off of batteries or plugged in, I took it. Over the past two years, I have recycled countless televisions, VCRs, printers, monitors, computers, laptops, keyboards, mice, DVD players, satellite receivers, all manner of network devices, cell phones, you name it! I've have recycled outdated items that are new out of the box. I have recycled a rotary dial phone, an eight-track player, and dare I say it, a pre-remote control television. Remember those days?
Now, as if I didn't already have my hands full, I again approached the PTO board about expanding our recycling program yet again. This time it was into scrap metal. And again, all proceeds go to support the school. Living in farm country, there is a seemingly endless supply of scrap metal. It includes old coils of barbed wire, fencing, hay rings, lawn mowers, bicycles, appliances, you name it! We even had the local jail donate their old metal bunks when they were renovating.
As you can see, recycling is in my blood. Not everyone will go to such extremes, and that is fine. Find your own comfort level and do what you can. You may find a lot of satisfaction knowing that you are doing your little part.