Thursday, January 27, 2011

From Recycling Pal Cathy

Dear DC Recycler,
I love your blog, and I appreciate the list of places you mention that will recycle certain products. I hope that your blog will encourage readers to think outside the box a bit when it comes to recycling. For example, I've found that almost ANY UPS/Mailbox store will accept "used" styro peanuts AND those plastic inflated bags that now seem to be the mode as well as that "foamy like" paper stuff that's used. I recently swapped out my old wire coat hangers for nicer ones, so I dropped off my old ones at a local dry cleaner. THEN, I needed some extra coat hangers for a winter party, so I went back to a drycleaner and picked up some used wire hangers..and then dropped them back off after the party. I bought myself some lovely gerber daisies the other day..and after they lost their bloom, I dropped off the plastic stem sticks at a local florist. They were thrilled. Once I finish with my magazines, I take them to work and put them in the kitchen where they're gone in a minute. I'd love to hear other creative ideas for recycling from your readers!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Basic Battery Recycling

We need an update on battery recycling in DC.

1) Choose rechargeable batteries. Rechargeable batteries have improved a lot, retain their charge much longer, and, according to Tree Hugger, are much less damaging than disposable batteries to the environment over the entire life of the battery. They are also a good price. It is essential that one gets the right batteries (most recommended: hybrid Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) cells) and a good charger.

According to Metaefficient, here are the best rechargeable batteries:
Here are the best chargers:
Remember that rechargeable batteries must be recycled, rather than dumped. Luckily, DC has many options for this: Radio Shack at Eastern Market and other locations found at Call2Recycle.

2) DC Government does collect batteries. One day each month (used to be weekly), you can bring your batteries and other items to Fort Totten transfer station for household hazardous waste/e-cycling/document shredding services. As I understand it, the city isn't actually recycling them, but rather they are keeping the batteries out of the landfills and the Fairfax incinerator. So, it is still better to use rechargeable batteries.

3) Car batteries can be recycled at most retailers of car batteries. AutoZone on H St NE should recycle car batteries and motor oil for free.

4) Other places collect batteries: the House office buildings, Best Buy. Or you can send them by mail (fee involved): Battery Solutions, Battery Mart, Big Green Box.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Greater Goods store

I was just up at Greater Goods store on U St. The owner is such a great resource. After thinking about ways to get rid of plastics, I decided to buy some corn garbage bags that fit my garbage can, which he sells too. He sells 50 bags for $5, which was a lot less than I was expecting to pay. If the bags end up in the landfill, they might decompose. If the bags end up in the Fairfax incinerator, they won't cause more air pollution. Greater Goods also has some great reusable sandwich bags (LunchSkins invented by some women in Bethesda and made in PA), water bottles (a big Kleen Kanteen shipment is coming in next week), natural cleaning sponges, water filtering systems, and a bunch of other great items. Thanks, Greater Goods!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Corks, Recycling, and You (Continued)

So, I've been collecting corks from Hayden's, friends, and neighbors (they suddenly appear on my doorstep!) for my journey by Metro to Whole Foods. I sorted through all the corks and removed the plastic ones, which you can see in the above picture. These plastic corks will all go in the garbage and to the landfill now. So, please don't buy wine with plastic corks. I've bought $3 and $4 wine with natural corks, so it isn't a matter of cost. It is a matter of saving the 100,000 jobs in the Mediterranean and the acres and acres of cork trees.

Below are the two very large shopping bags that I am bringing on the Metro to Whole Foods to their collection station, which is one floor down from the main floor right in front of the elevators. It would be sooooooo great if Schneider's and other wine stores would collect corks! There are great organizations to work with, such as:Let your local wine store know about these organizations. Maybe you can interest them in collecting corks too. Let me know if you find other businesses collecting corks, Brita water filters, etc. Thanks!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Corks, Recycling, and You

Can you help the DC Recycler? Schneider's on the Hill is all set to collect corks, but they haven't put out their collection box yet. They have a collection box and a recycling company to work with. They just need to find a spot in the store to place the box. In the meantime, I collect corks and take them over to Whole Foods by Metro (I don't have a car and actually don't shop at Whole Foods). It would be so great if Schneider's collected corks since I and many other Hillies are customers there!

Can you contact Schneider's either by phone (202.543.9300), email (, or in person and say something like, "I hear that you'll be collecting corks for recycling soon. When will this be? Thank you for doing this!" We love Schneider's, and cork collection there would make it even greater. Also, this would really help the DC Recycler out a lot. Thank you!

P.S. Remember that plastic corks are not recyclable and not sustainable environmentally or socially (natural corks maintain a regional economy in the Mediterranean for something like 100,000 workers), so choose wine with natural corks (or twist tops but they aren't recyclable). World Wildlife Fund recommends natural corks. Save the cork forests! Save jobs!

A great way to recycle your computer (and peripherals)

Project Reboot accepts computers, cleans/fixes them, and then sells them to non-profits for $10. What a great idea! They accept working or non-working computers, so long as they contain a Pentium III class processor or better. Here is a list of other items they accept. They are located in Rockville. Project Reboot is organized by the Capitol PC Users Group (CPCUG), a non-profit educational organization established in 1982, which provides a forum for sharing information, experience, and resources among computer users, from novice to advanced. They have great educational events! Get the word out about Project Reboot!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Stop using plastics today

“It’s safe to say that plastics with the resin code 3-7 are not recyclable and should be avoided by consumers,” says Mark Murray of Californians Against Waste.

#1 and #2 plastics can be downcycled into such things as picnic tables and decks. Preserve turns #5 yogurt cups into toothbrushes and razors. Basically, there is no domestic market for #3-#7 plastics or for plastic wrap. Equally important: DC and VA are burning garbage to create energy, which means that plastics (and batteries) are being burned and are polluting. Here are ten things one could do to stop using plastics, end the plastics market, and create new sustainable markets:

1) Avoid using plastic wrap.
Store leftovers in the refrigerator in bowls covered with a saucer or plate. Alternatively, use Pyrex glass storage containers, which are very sturdy and union made. For sandwiches, you can even make your own reusable sandwich bags.

2) Avoid plastic silverware, plates, and salad containers at lunch.
I'm the worst offender on this front. I have been trying for months to get around to doing this. My goal this semester is to bring some silverware (or bamboo To-Go Ware) to work. Also, I should just bring my lunch, since there are no bring-your-own plate options where I work (wish there were!). The House of Representatives' office buildings have corn silverware, which they have composted. You have to commercially compost corn silverware and other compostable products.

3) Avoid plastic yogurt containers.
See previous post on 12/31 on making your own yogurt (in a glass container). It's super easy.

4) Avoid plastic water bottles.
Yes, it is good to reuse plastic water bottles. However, it seems even better to get a stainless steel water bottle (such as Kleen Kanteen) or glass water bottle (such as Lifefactory discussed on another website).

5) Bring your own mug to the cafe.
Of course, great cafes have ceramic mugs. If your great cafe doesn't, you can avoid the plastic "adult sippy cup" lid by bringing your own mug. A few years back, I bought myself a ceramic travel mug with a lid.

6) Bring your own vegetable bags to the grocery store.
You can bring your previously used bags or purchase some reusable bags.

7) Buy in bulk.
Many coops (like Takoma Park-Silver Spring Coop) and other grocery stores (Yes! Market) have bulk bins with grains, dried fruit, spices, etc. Maybe you can bring in pre-weighed glass jars and containers, rather than using plastic bags?

8) Buy milk in glass bottles.
South Mountain Creamery delivers milk in glass bottles to your door in the District. P&C Market at Lincoln Park on the Hill sells delicious milk in returnable glass bottles, though it might be seen as expensive. Here's a list of dairies that use glass bottles.

9) Say goodbye to straws.
I know that many have revolted by this point... No, you can get a glass straw!

10) Say goodbye to plastic garbage bags?
Well, I made the brilliant decision to get a garbage can that uses plastic grocery bags right before DC implemented the 5 cent bag tax. I still use the various plastic grocery bags I come across. One could use bioplastic bags, such as BioBag or Bag-to-Nature bags. However, since a lot of us are noticing that we have very little garbage because there is so much that DC government recycles, we could just roll up our garbage in some newspaper and say goodbye to plastic garbage bags altogether.

After writing this, I found this great blog, Life Less Plastic, which has even more ideas. Do you have some other ideas about how to reduce our plastic footprint?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Shout out for Freecycle

Dear DC Recycler, I'm just writing to tout my great appreciation for the freecycle network and FreecycleDC. This site is amazing as it's allowed me to recycle things that I knew were still of use...but just needed that "special someone" to find it. In the last year, I've freecycled foamed rubber stuffing from a pillow that my dog chewed up, moving boxes, a lamp, plates, a (large and heavy) futon and frame, a small file cabinet, very cool art work I found in a trash can, old light fixtures, and a security gate for a back door. Sometimes I meet the people who pick up the goodies, but often I just leave the stuff on my front stoop. When I have met the folks, I've found them to be great people who are just interested in moving things along in the world. I hope you'll encourage folks to use this great service!

Recycler 123

P.S. When I joined the Yahoo Group for Freecycle DC I opted out of their emails and even their daily you can opt in...or out of the large amount of traffic on the site.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Create Markets: Choose to Buy Recycled Products

Some have said: If you’re not buying recycled, you’re not really recycling. Buying items made with recycled materials helps close the loop and create new markets for these goods. Here are some easy ways to do this:

1) Recycled Paper
Kinko's at Eastern Market sells 30% post-consumer waste (PCW) printer/copy paper. Greenline Paper sells 100% recycled/100% PCW wire-bound notebooks, copy paper, envelopes, file folders, and a wide variety of school supplies, including Eco-Writer pencils made from 100% recycled newsprint.

2) Recycled Plastic
Preserve toothbrushes, razors, plates, etc. made from recycled #5 plastics.

3) Recycled Cork
: natural cork is an organically sustainable practice that provide 100,000 jobs in the Mediterranean; synthetic/plastic and screw caps are not.
  • SOLE shoes organized by ReCork.
  • Wine cork tiles from Yemm & Hart.
  • Cork cheese boards from Corkologie.
  • Cork flooring, furniture, and many other things at Jelinek Cork Group. I'm not sure how much of their stuff is actually recycled.
4) Recycled Glass
Uncommon Goods has glasses made from wine bottles.

5) Sustainable, non-petroleum materials
  • Bamboo computer mouse and keyboard: bamboo instead of plastic.
  • To-Go Ware: bamboo silverware.
  • Burt's Bees: Lip balm and other items made from vegetable oils and beeswax, rather than petroleum, which is not a renewable resource and can be toxic.
  • Jelinek Cork Group: Cork.
  • Agave fibers (sisal), Coconut fibers (coir), flax, hemp, kapok, tampico used in pillows, bedding, and clothing.