Tuesday, October 17, 2006

It's Getting Easier To Be Green (Apologies To Kermit)

In my business we purge a lot of clutter. Clearly some items are in good shape and can be donated to charity or sold. But items that may have gone into the trash bin in the past can be disposed of more responsibly through recycling and special hazardous waste collection sites. Ultimately, responsible disposal means less trash to clutter our world and is a “green” strategy for eliminating clutter in an organized household.

Here are a few steps you can take to be more “green” in your household:
Set up recycling containers where items naturally collect so they are easy to use.
Be familiar with what can and cannot be recycled.
Follow a schedule for taking items to a recycling center – of course if you have curbside recycling the schedule is built-in.
Collect hazardous materials and dispose of them responsibly.

Set up recycling containers where items naturally collect. Consider placing a bin to collect junk mail by the door, a bin to collect food containers in the kitchen, and a larger bin to hold items until recycle day in the garage or by the trash cans. If you collect paper-items for a school fund-raiser, set up a special bin that can be easily grabbed for delivery. For containers inside your home use something that fits into the d├ęcor: utilitarian does not have to be ugly. We have a large, lovely basket by our front door to catch junk mail and old newspapers. When the bin is full, empty it into the larger bin. The larger bin is what is placed on the curb or brought to the recycle center.

Important: please first shred anything containing personal and/or credit information to protect your identity! You can shred directly into the recycle bin.

The kitchen is a great source of recyclable goods. Place a container to catch the cans, jars, plastic jugs, and boxes that contained food near your kitchen trashcan. Often kitchen workflow is streamlined by placing the recycle bin and trashcan together under or as close to the kitchen sink as possible. Food preparation and cleaning-up are usually done by the sink. Rinse out containers prior to tossing them into the recycle bin.

Note that polystyrene cannot be recycled at this time. Plastic usually carries an identifier on it: look for a number within the chasing arrows triangle imprinted on the item. Polystyrene is number six. Egg cartons, to-go food containers, and packing peanuts are examples of polystyrene. Packing peanuts are accepted by some shipping businesses for reuse -- such as the UPS Store in Brentwood. Plastic items that do not have the identifier cannot be recycled. Except for plastic number six, numbers one through seven are accepted for recycling in Brentwood. Check the item prior to putting it in the recycle bin to make sure it is recyclable by your community or recycle center. The Brentwood community website lists acceptable items for recycling under the “Waste Management” page under the “Services” link (www.brentwoodmo.org).

Some items that cannot be recycled cannot go into the trashcan either. Certain household products are hazardous. Paints, varnishes, pesticides, florescent bulbs, motor oil are some, but not all, of the items that are found in a typical home and are considered hazardous. Luckily, St. Louis County sponsors Household Hazardous Waste Collection Events twice a year. The fall event is coming up and will be offered on three days at different locations – just in time for fall cleaning!

Sunday, October 22
Lucent Technologies
At 14250 Clayton Rd.
8 A.M. to 3 P.M.
Saturday, October 26
Westfield Shopping Town South County
8 A.M. to 3 P.M.
Saturday, November 4
St. Louis Community College
At Florissant Valley
8 A.M. to 3 P.M.

Please note that this event is only open to St. Louis County residents – not businesses. Proof of residency -- such as your driver’s license -- is required. Get more information about the event at the website http://www.stlouisco.com/doh/waste/waste_mg.html or by calling the St. Louis County Department of Health Waste Management Hotline 314-286-9200.

Other hazardous materials that cannot be disposed of in the trash include electronics. If you need to dispose of electronic equipment check out www.ecyclestlouis.org, which provides information on several electronic recycling centers in the Metro St. Louis area. Note that some women’s domestic violence shelters can reuse cell phones. Please consider donating your old cell phone to this worthy cause – you may save a life.

Removing clutter from your life is a good thing, but please do so responsibly by insuring items are reused, recycled, or disposed of properly.