What junk can I recycle?
Is your broken laptop gathering dust in your closet? How about leftover cans of paint from your "Tiffany blue" phase? And what about all those single-use plastic bags?
You can rid yourself of those and other unwanted items without sending them to the landfill. Washington and Oregon offer recycling programs that go far beyond curbside pickup. Here are some of the recycling programs that may be offered near you and will help you keep extra waste out of the landfill.
Can I recycle electronics?
Electronic components may contain toxins like lead, mercury and cadmium, meaning most electronics require some disassembly to safely recycle. E-Cycle Washington and Oregon E-Cycles can help you find free recycling drop-off sites near you for items including TVs, computers and monitors. Some big-box electronics retailers (like Staples and Best Buy) also accept hard-to-recycle items like cell phones, toner cartridges and printers at no charge.
What about appliances, motor oil, batteries and fluorescent lights? Many county transfer stations now collect these once-banned items for recycling. Your county's website is the best place to start to see what's recyclable and any per-day limits on specific items.
What should I do with unused paint?
Cities and counties long have had a patchwork of recommendations for dealing with unwanted paint. Oregon and Washington are among states participating in a paint-stewardship program to help homeowners responsibly dispose of latex and oil-based house paint, stains, varnishes and more. The program is funded by a fee added to the purchase price of new paint. Check the PaintCare locator to find a drop-off location near you.
How can I recycle plastic bags?
Before the pandemic, Oregon had banned single-use plastic bags at stores and restaurants, with Washington planning a similar statewide ban to take effect at the start of 2021. However, both states temporarily paused restrictions over concerns that reusable bags could facilitate transmission of COVID-19. In many areas, they are still in use (at the time of this writing in January 2023).
If you now have a stash of those bags accumulating under the sink or stashed in a pantry, visit plasticfilmrecycling.org, enter your ZIP code and find retailers where you can drop them off.
Do not throw those plastic bags away and let them end up in the landfill.
Tons of recyclable materials wind up in the landfill each year because well-intentioned people try to recycle things that aren't recyclable. Their tossed plastic-coated cups, goopy ketchup bottles and other items can end up contaminating an entire batch of recyclables.
We encourage you to reference this quick and easy guide, courtesy of Waste Management, to help you recycle right. Check it out!
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