Recycling is nothing new. It's been nearly four decades now since the advent of Earth Day in 1970 and the birth of the chasing arrow design that has become the internationally-recognized symbol used to designate recyclable materials.
We all learned the drill: Reduce, reuse, recycle. Back in the day, it meant crush your cans, separate your paper from plastics and figure out what all those numbers mean.
But as green becomes red hot -- and for good reason -- we're forced to re-examine what we think of as waste reduction. There's a reason that the movement's pioneer slogan starts with "reduce."
Attacking the root of the problem and reducing the amount of garbage we create is now conveniently called "precycling," and it refers to common sense things like opting for reusable versus disposable packaging, buying in bulk rather than single serving and just saying "no" to plastic shopping bags and Styrofoam.
After that, everything we can't reuse, donate or compose should, potentially, be recycled. Paper, plastic, aluminum, glass and tin are the basic ones, but there are many other common items that should be just as obvious. The problem is, most of them aren't part of the curbside collection regimen. Cell phones, rechargeable batteries (and non-rechargeables, too), printer cartridges, even tennis shoes can and should be recycled.
Electronics and battery recycling is seemingly ubiquitous in many cities and there are a number of non-profit organizations that take computer parts and turn them into working computers for others. Ebay developed the Rethink Initiative to help your electronics find new homes. If you have a major appliance that doesn't work and you'd rather replace it than try to fix it, offer it to local repair shops, trade schools, or hobbyists to tinker with.
If you're interested in a little green reward for your donation -- and we don't mean "eco" -- click here and scroll down to the Recycle For Cash section.
Cell phones contain toxic metals that can pollute the environment and threaten human health. When recycled responsibly, the metals can be put back into circulation, decreasing the need for new metal mining.
Donation sites across the U.S.: Alltel, AT&T, Batteries Plus, Black & Decker, Circuit City, DeWalt, Grainger, The Home Depot, Lowe's, Milwaukee Electrical Tool, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Orchard Supply, Porter Cable Service Centers, RadioShack, Remington Product Company, Sears, Staples, Target, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless.
Or, find a ZIP code specific list here.
Recycle-Free is a free program that sends collection boxes to you.
Recycle My Cell Phone is a national campaign that has partnered with EARTHWORKS, an environmental non-profit organization.
In the Milwaukee area, a few other options include:
Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity. Turn in your cell phones at 2233 N. 30th St., Monday through Friday during business hours. Partnering with Shelter Alliance, a firm that specializes in the logistics and underwriting of fundraising programs through the collection and responsible recycling of used cellular phones, the proceeds from this collection can raise thousands of dollars for building more Habitat homes.
The Wisconsin Humane Society accepts donations of cell phones, empty laser and Inkjet printer cartridges.
Whole Foods Market, 2305 N. Prospect Ave., also recycles cell phones in bins just outside of the restrooms. (It also provides bins for recycling plastics -- #3 through #7 -- not generally recyclable through the city.)
Computer and printer cartridges:
Most printer cartridges are easily recycled, refilled or re-built.
H&R Scrap Metals, Inc., 9000 W. Fond du Lac Ave., (414) 353-4333, recycles PCs, monitors, mainframes, printers, fax machines and copiers.
Milwaukee PC gives you cash for your old ink cartridges.
Office Depot encourages customers to recycle their used ink cartridges. Customers can redeem up to 25 cartridges a day and redeem up to three coupons per for any amount totaling more than the dollar amount per purchase.
Recycle-Free is another free option.
Motor oil, tires and car batteries:
All three of these products are big environmental problems, but they're also easily recycled. Put your used oil into a plastic milk jug and clearly mark it "used motor oil" and take it to Jiffy Lube, Valvoline or another quick-lube shop during business hours. Many auto parts stores, such as Advance Auto Parts, recycle motor oil and batteries.
Rechargeable batteries (other than car batteries):
Recycling Nickel-Cadmium rechargeable batteries couldn't be easier. Type your ZIP code in here to find a location near you. Call 1-800-8BATTERY for more information.
Milwaukee has participated in the Nike Reuse-A-Shoe program -- which aims to collect used athletic shoes that will be recycled and used to make brand new athletic surfaces -- since the summer of 2004 and collects used athletic shoes at numerous locations throughout the metro area.
The recycled materials are used in new sports surfaces such as playgrounds, basketball and tennis courts and running tracks throughout Milwaukee and the country. Click here to find the nearest show drop off location.
Whole Foods and local Kohl's Department Stores are among the retail outlets that allow you to drop off plastic bags for recycling. Local Roundy's stores -- Pick 'n Save, Copps and Rainbow -- also offer plastic bag recycling.
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”