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Recycling 101 | What You Can and Can’t

Posted By G Living Staff Monkies On March 17, 2009 @ 1:00 am In Interior Design / Home Stuff | 3 Comments

No city is ever going to be perfect. Certainly not Los Angeles, with its ridiculous traffic and high cost of living. But one thing the city has going for it is an excellent recycling program.

It wasn’t until perusing the official City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation website that I became aware of the fact that you could now recycle Styrofoam®. Long thought of as the annoying and beyond redemption party crasher of the green living movement, the product officially known as polystyrene thermal insulation is actually part of the plastic family and has some sustainability. Who knew?

Here’s a rundown on what else can be placed into your city-issued blue recycling container. It breaks down into four categories: paper, metal, glass and plastic.

Paper must be clean and dry in order for the city to take it, but just about any paper will do, from the large (telephone books) to the small (Post-it® notes). This includes unwanted mail, newspapers, cardboard boxes (flattened down, of course), magazines, wrapping paper, toilet paper rolls and envelopes (even those with clear plastic windows).

What you want to avoid placing in the blue bin are contaminated or soiled paper products, especially those covered in oil or food waste.

Metal recyclables include aluminum, tin and bi-metals. That means, as long as you rinse them out first, the city will gladly take away your empty soda cans, pet food cans, pie tins, aluminum foil, wire hangers and empty paint and aerosol cans (so long as the plastic caps are removed first).

Glass is pretty self-explanatory. But as with the metal items, please rinse your wine, beer and soda bottles, pickle jars and spaghetti sauce jars before blue-binning them.

Which brings us back to the plastics. Little did I know before embarking on this explorative journey that plastics are divided up into numbered categories. (Sometimes, I’m a little slow.) But, sure enough, turning over the refillable water jug from which I drink every day revealed a number “7” in the arrowed recycling symbol. (For a more detailed treatise on plastic numbering, click here.)

This category runs the gamut from empty bleach containers to shampoo and lotion bottles to margarine tubs, plastic planters, the aforementioned Styrofoam® (excluding packing “peanuts”) and plastic swimming pools.

What you cannot recycle in your blue curbside bin, according to the Bureau of Sanitation, is contaminated paper, broken mirrors, light bulbs, ceramics and other tiny shards; batteries (including battery operated items, like toys or radios); coated milk cartons; any cloth or fabric; mini blinds; lawn furniture; rubber hoses & tires; construction materials; electrical cords; concrete or otherwise recyclable items that contain hazardous chemicals (oil based paints, pool cleaners, pesticides, etc.).

Some of these items are, in fact, recyclable – just not curbside. Unwanted cell phones, for example, are begging to be turned back into your wireless provider or phone manufacturer for recycling.

For an article on recycling non-curbside-approved items, click here. For proper disposal of hazardous chemicals, call 1 (800) 98-TOXIC or 1 (800) 988-6942.

Of course, I encourage you to live as green as possible, but if your main contribution to the planet is recycling (and it’s a good contribution), please do it wisely!


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