Recycle and Upcycle to Help the Environment

There is a finite amount of space on our planet Earth. People waste too much, from extra food on their plate that gets thrown away to throwing away items that could be recycled or donated. Even better yet, people should upcycle. Upcycling is “the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environment value.” Everyone has a responsibility to do their part and not make the Earth worse due to your presence.

When I visited Germany about a decade ago, I was shocked to find that their trash/recycle amounts were the opposite of ours. In the United States we have a tiny recycle bin and one or two large trash cans. While I was visiting my friend in Germany, they had a whole room in their basement dedicated to recycling. There were different bins for different products that they separated out and brought to the recycling center. Their trash bin was about the size of a US recycle bin. They even put leftover food in a composter in their back yard. How did the US go so wrong?

The people of the US seem to think trash magically disappears when it is hauled out to the curb. This is true but it is not gone, only moved. We need to make less trash and recycle more. There are so many things that are being thrown away that should be recycled. Keep in mind each city is different on what they accept so your city might not accept everything here. Even if your city doesn’t accept it there might be a recycling center nearby you can drop things off at.

Paper Products: Books, cardboard boxes, greeting cards, magazines, shredded paper, stamps, wrapping paper, yellow pages

DIY and Garden: Bricks and building rubble, soil

Metals: Aerosols, aluminum foil, drink cans, food cans, tin foil

Glass: Bottles, wine bottles, jars, milk bottles, sheet/plate glass, window glass

Liquids and Chemicals: engine oil, paint

Paper and Cardboard: Juice cartons, milk cartons, tetra pack

Plastic: Carrier bags, household cleaner bottles, plastic detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, yogurt containers

Textiles: Clothes, shoes

Waste Electronics: Household batteries, car batteries, computer monitors, cookers, dishwashers, fridges/freezers, computer hard drives, hearing aids, computer keyboards, mobile phones, televisions, washing machines

Miscellaneous: beds, bicycles, CDs, carpets, chairs, egg shells, food waste, keys, light bulbs, mattresses, musical instruments, printer cartridges, sofas, spectacles, tables, toys, video tapes, energy savings bulbs, florescent bulbs, low energy light bulbs

This is just a list that I found online of various things that can be recycled. Your local curbside will not take all of these things, it varies by city. Also, there might be one or two drop off days per year of dangerous recyclables. My city holds one in the spring and one in the fall at our local library/police station parking lot. We are allowed to bring things that cannot be put in our every week recycle bin, such as: prescription medications, nail polish, old batteries, light bulbs, chemicals, mercury thermometers, paint, etc. Some things on this list can be composted, such as egg shells, and food waste. Get a composter for your backyard and put the scraps in it. Just be careful not to attract animals by leaving food around your back yard. They tend to become depended on it and it’s not their natural food source so they could get sick.

If things are still in ok shape, instead of throwing them out or recycling them simply take them to your local Salvation Army or thrift shop. This is especially great for clothes, furniture, kitchen supplies, and videos/DVDs/CDs. Just because these items no longer serve you any value doesn’t hold true for someone else.

Garbage days are great days to take a walk through your neighborhood for treasures! One man’s trash is another man’s treasure! So take this opportunity to scour your local neighborhoods for items that can be donated, recycled, or reused. Even if not personally by you, if someone can use it then grab it up. I have been doing this for years with my mom. We have found great items throughout the years including: a bicycle, a stroller, tables, chairs, bags of clothes, etc. We used the stroller not for a child, but for my dog that is too old and sick to walk anymore. We would push her around the neighborhood in it for some fresh air. Do be careful of things that might be soiled or could have bedbugs or lice. Yes, it is possible but not probable. Use common sense with items. Don’t think inside the box. Look at items with a fresh perspective on what they could be, not just what they once were.

If you get really good and want to start upcycling that is the next thing you can do to help our environment. Repurpose items into something new. For example: use an old ladder for a bookshelf, turn old glass bottles into pendant lamp shades, turn old gloves or socks into stuffed animals, convert an old discarded piano into a book shelf or flower container, use old toilet paper tubes to organize cords, use a CD/DVD disc case for a bagel holder, or cut a tub in half and turn it into a seat. There are so many things you can do if you see the item with new light. Pinterest is a great resource to learn how to be crafty. This social media tool is all about DIY crafts. Just be careful, it can suck you in for hours at a time.

Please simply make an effort. Buy less things, finish the food on your plate, recycle, donate, etc. Every little bit helps out. Follow the mantra less is more. Don’t be wasteful. When others see you making an effort that reminds them as well, so lead by example. We only have a limited amount of space on our Earth so let’s keep it beautiful and not full of trash.


Recycle ; Earth ; Reuse ; Environment

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