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Curbside Recycling - Simple Tips for Reducing Waste

Source: EPA Consumer Handbook for Reducing Solid Waste, 11/04
Packaging serves many purposes. It protects and contains products and provides product information. Some packaging, however, is designed largely to enhance a product's attractiveness or prominence on the store shelf. Since packages account for a large volume of the trash we generate, they provide a good opportunity for reducing waste.
  • When choosing between two similar products, select the one with the least unnecessary packaging.
  • Remember that wrenches, screwdrivers, nails, and other hardware are often available in loose bins. At the grocery, consider whether it is necessary to purchase items such as tomatoes, garlic and mushrooms in prepackaged containers when they can be bought unpackaged.
  • Recognize and support store managers when they stock products with no packaging or reduced packaging. Let clerks know when it's not necessary to double wrap a purchase.
  • Consider large or economy-sized items for household products that are used frequently, such as laundry soap, shampoo, baking soda, pet foods and cat litter.
  • Consider whether concentrated products are appropriate for your needs.
  • Whenever possible, select grocery, hardware and household items in bulk and avoid single-serving sizes.
Some jobs around the home may require the use of products containing hazardous components. Nevertheless, toxicity can be reduced by following some simple guidelines.

  • Take actions that use non-hazardous or less hazardous components to accomplish the task at hand. Instead of using pesticides, for example, plant marigolds in your garden to ward off certain pests. In some cases, you may be using less toxic chemicals to do a job, and in others, you may use some physical method, such as sandpaper, scouring pads, or just a little elbow grease, to achieve the same results.
  • Learn about alternatives to household items containing hazardous substances. In some cases, products that you have around the house can be used to do the same job as products with hazardous components.
  • If you need to use products with hazardous components, use only the amounts needed. Leftover materials can be shared with neighbors or donated to a business, charity or government agency, or, in the case of used motor oil, recycled at a participating service station. Never put leftover products with hazardous components in food or beverage containers.
  • Read and follow directions on product labels. Make sure the containers are always labeled properly and stored safely away from children and pets. Follow local community policy on household hazardous waste disposal. If at any time you have any questions about potentially hazardous ingredients in products and their impacts on human health, do not hesitate to call your local poison control center.
Many products are designed to be used more than once.

  • A sturdy mug or cup can be washed and used time and again as can washable utensils and tableware.
  • Cloth napkins, sponges and dishcloths can be used around the house and can be washed over and over again.
  • Look for items available in refillable containers. For example, some bottles and jugs for beverages and detergents are made to be refilled and reused, either by the consumer or the manufacturer.
  • When possible, use rechargeable batteries.
  • When using single-use items, remember to take only what is needed. For example, take only one napkin or ketchup packet if more are not needed.
Although durable products sometimes cost more initially, their extended life span may offset the higher cost and even save money over the long term.

  • Consider long-lasting appliances and electronic equipment with good warranties. Check reports for products with a record of high consumer satisfaction and low breakdown rates. Also, look for products that are easily repaired.
  • Keep appliances in good working order. Follow manufacturers' suggestions for proper operation and maintenance.
  • High-quality, long-lasting tires for cars, bicycles and other vehicles are available and to extend tire life; check tire pressure once a month; follow the manufacturer's recommendations for upkeep and rotate tires routinely. In addition, retread and remanufactured tires can reduce tire waste.
  • Mend clothes instead of throwing them away. Where possible, repair worn shoes, boots, handbags and briefcases.
  • Whenever intended for use over a long period of time, choose furniture, luggage, sporting goods, toys and tools that will stand up to vigorous use.
Many everyday items have more than one use. Before discarding bags, containers and other items, consider if it’s hygienic and practical to reuse them. CAUTION: Do not reuse containers that originally held products such as motor oil or pesticides. These containers and their potentially harmful residues should be discarded (following manufacturers' instructions on the label) as soon as they are empty. When you no longer have a use for a full or partially full container, take it to a community household hazardous waste collection center. Also, never store anything potentially harmful in containers designed for food or beverages. Always label containers and store them out of the reach of children and pets.

  • Reuse paper and plastic bags and twist ties. If it's practical, keep a supply of bags on hand to use on the next shopping trip, or take a reusable bag to the store. When a reusable bag is not on hand and only one or two items are being purchased, consider whether you need a bag at all.
  • Reuse scrap paper and envelopes. Use both sides of a piece of paper for writing notes before recycling it. Save and reuse gift boxes, ribbons and larger pieces of wrapping and tissue paper. Save packaging, colored paper, egg cartons and other items for reuse or for arts and crafts projects. Find other uses or homes for old draperies, bedding, clothing, towels and cotton diapers or cut up what's left for use as patchwork, rags, doll clothes, rag rugs or other projects.
  • Reuse newspaper, boxes, packaging "peanuts” and bubble wrap to ship packages. Brown paper bags are excellent for wrapping parcels.
  • Wash and reuse empty glass and plastic jars, milk jugs, coffee cans, dairy tubs and other similar containers that otherwise get thrown out.
Seldom-used items, like certain power tools and party goods, often collect dust, take up valuable storage space, and ultimately end up in the trash. Consider renting or borrowing these items the next time they're needed. Borrowing, renting, or sharing items saves both money and natural resources.

  • Rent or borrow party decorations and supplies such as tables, chairs, centerpieces, linens, dishes and silverware.
  • Rent or borrow tools such as ladders, chain saws, floor buffers, rug cleaners and garden tillers. In apartment buildings or co-ops, residents can pool resources and form "banks" to share tools or other equipment used or needed infrequently.
  • Share newspapers and magazines with others to extend the lives of these items and reduce waste.
One person's trash is another person's treasure. Instead of discarding unwanted appliances, tools or clothes, try selling or donating them. Opting to purchase used items is another good way to practice source reduction. Such products are often less expensive than new items, and using them will keep them from being thrown away.

  • Donate or resell items to thrift stores or other organizations in need. Donors sometimes receive tax deductions or even cash. All should be clean and of respectable quality.
  • Sell secondhand items at fairs, bazaars, swap meets and garage sales, or use online options such as or
  • Give clothes to family members, neighboring families or the needy. If clothes are torn or stained, recycle them. Consider acquiring used clothing at thrift or consignment shops. The condition of used clothing in these stores is screened; clothes are typically laundered and cannot have tears or stains.
  • Consider conducting a food or clothing drive to help others. Where appropriate, encourage area merchants to donate damaged goods or food items that are still edible to food banks, shelters and other groups that care for the needy.
When you've done all you can to avoid waste, recycle. Producing goods from recycled materials consumes less energy and conserves raw materials. Yet, our landfills are packed with many packages and products that could have been recycled.
  • Consider products made of materials collected locally for recycling.
  • Participate in community recycling drives, curbside programs and drop-off collections.
  • Take used car batteries (lead-acid batteries), antifreeze and motor oil (saved in clean non-breakable containers) to participating automobile service centers and other places that collect these items for recycling.
  • As more businesses and organizations provide collection opportunities, take advantage of them. For example, many grocery stores collect bags for recycling.
Participating in a local or regional recycling program is only part of the recycling process. For recycling to succeed, recyclable materials must be processed into new products and those products must be purchased and used.

  • Look for items in packages and containers made of recycled materials.
  • Use products with recycled content whenever you can. For instance, many paper, glass, metal and plastic products contain recovered materials.
  • When checking products for recycled content, look for a statement that recycled materials were used and, if possible, choose the item with the largest percentage of post-consumer recycled content.
  • Encourage local businesses and others to purchase recycled products such as paper, re-refined oil and retread tires.
Backyard composting can significantly reduce the amount of waste put in a landfill. When properly composted, these wastes are turned into natural soil additives. Finished compost can improve soil texture, increase the ability of the soil to absorb air and water, suppress weed growth, decrease erosion and reduce the need to apply commercial soil additives.

  • Learn how to compost food scraps and yard trimmings.
  • If there's no room for a compost pile, offer compostable materials to community composting programs or garden projects near you.
  • If you have a yard, allow grass clippings to remain on the lawn to decompose and return nutrients back to the soil, rather than bagging and disposing of them.

For additional information, contact the Environmental Services Department at 970-221-6600.