Recycling may not be the most efficient use of our resources (compared to reducing and reusing), but it beats landfilling the unusable “trash” you don’t want. In the last several months I’ve gone from curbside recycling of #1-2 plastics, aluminum, and glass (and newspaper in the litterboxes), to these items plus junk mail, plastic bags/case wrap, cardboard, paperboard, styrofoam, packing peanuts, phonebooks, and #3-7 plastics. All in a city with a crummy recycling program.
This is one of my visits to Indianapolis Recycled Fiber, where dumpsters and bins accept all those weird things your curbside recycler won’t. Except molded styrofoam, which I’m still saving to make it worth a trip to the place in town that will take it. Anyway, IRF takes odd things like phonebooks (no, you can’t recycle them with newspaper or junk mail) and plastics through #7, plus they are on my way home from work. Indy now has added drop-off points for cardboard and paperboard to some of the plastic/glass/aluminum/newspaper spots, one of which is two miles from home. I take packing peanuts to the UPS Store and plastic bags and case wrap go to Kroger, both of which are on the way to the city dropoff. Convenient dropoff on the way to other errands is important to me because we have a small house with no shed/garage space available for recycling collection, so I need to unload the recyclables frequently lest they take over the front porch or annoy my S.O. too much. (He has begun bringing home quantities of cardboard and plastics from jobs at clients’ homes, though I did not ask him to do so!)
In the reuse category, American consumerism made me collect all this crap over the years that ended up in my garage when I moved (this is less than half the pile), and so I committed to finding new homes for all of it. I have used Freecycle a lot in the past, but for mass quantities (and the annoyances Freecycling can bring) nothing beats a well-attended yard sale.
My mom came down this weekend and though I don’t think it was her original intent to help me sell my crap, she did help and it was a
reasonably fun productive day in the hot sun (and a shade canopy!) with another friend selling her stuff. My friend had a lot less and is about to move to another country, so she had a better reason to be getting rid of everything! I made a decent amount of money at the community sale, which was held at a church and collected a booth fee which was matched and donated to charity. At the end I declared everything free and had to take very little back with me (for which I will still find a home). I had brought three full vehicles–SUV, minivan, and full-sized pickup!
Reduction: I fight the battle against collecting stuff every time I go to the store. I have been better in recent years about not buying things I don’t need, but I’m not immune to it. Living in a smaller house with very little storage forces the issue more acutely for me, and in the end I save money too. Now I need to focus on buying items with less packaging, and collecting all the recycling on the porch is making me aware of the packaging quantities, which is starting to guilt me into doing a better job during the purchase phase. There’s still the dilemma: having items shipped to our home is theoretically better for the environment than driving to the store to get it (and probably reduces impulse purchasing too), but now we have all these boxes. I wish I could find someone who wanted them!