Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Yard Sale in Reverse

I almost missed my big chance to recycle old computers that had been sitting in the garage for most of a year. They weren't mine. I had seen them put out on the curb for the garbage, and couldn't stand the thought of all that lead and other heavy metals in the monitors heading to the landfill.

Princeton Township lets its residents drop off computers for recycling year-round, but we boroughins end up waiting for the big annual recycling day in the township parking lot on Witherspoon.

Adding to the environmental good feelings of the event, it turns out that the computers (and TVs and various other electronic stuff accepted at this annual event) are not shipped oversees to some unregulated smelting plant, but are actually recycled right here in New Jersey.

Residents were also encouraged to bring in old financial documents for shredding.

The whole thing was organized by Princeton Township's recycling coordinator, Janet Pellichero, with help and impetus from the Princeton Environmental Commission.

If you missed it, either wait until next year, check out what recycling days Mercer County offers ( or, if you live in the township, check out for instructions on how to recycle your computer and related equipment.

Bone Up On What's Recyclable

My dog has been taking me on daily around-the-block tours of our neighborhood. It allows him to catch up on the latest canine comings and goings in the 'hood, and every two weeks I get to take a reading on the state of recycling in town. Basically, people need to bone up on what's recyclable and what's not. I see a lot of (pardon the sports analogy) Hail Marys getting thrown into the recycling bins, that is, stuff that should be recyclable but which in our imperfect world could actually cause problems at the recycling plant. So let's get our recycling chops together, and learn what goes in the recycling bins, and what has to go in the trash.

Here are a few common mistakes, followed by some links to useful websites:

DON'T put your recyclables in plastic bags! Put them loose in the bins. Paper can be stuffed in paper bags.

DON'T try to recycle those wide-mouthed plastic containers, like yogurt cups, flower pots or folding salad bar containers. They may say #1 or #2 on the bottom, but if they don't narrow at the top for a small lid, they aren't recyclable. For details on all this, scrutinize the photo in Mercer County's brochure of Common Recycling Mistakes

DON'T recycle pizza boxes of any kind. The delivered ones are greasy. Frozen food boxes look clean, but have something in them that relegates them to the trash.

Styrofoam belongs in the garbage. Check township website for more info.

DON'T recycle toys. They either get a second life via a yardsale or meet their ignominious end in the trash can. I have an idea for a Fix-It Museum in town, where refugees from the throw-away society get to see real people fixing things for re-use, but that will have to wait.

No light bulbs! No glass other than bottles and jars. The glass in drinking glasses is apparently different from bottle glass. To recycle florescent bulbs, which contain traces of mercury, check the websites below for dropoff locations.

For recycling afficionados, here are a few extra tips:

  • Metal and plastic lids are recyclable, but take them off before putting them in the bins.
  • A few of those windowed envelopes won't hurt, but as a whole, the windows need to come out.
  • Washing containers before putting them in the bins helps keep odors down, but I recently heard that the process of melting down recyclables for reuse burns all the impurities off.
Check out in particular the Mercer County brochure. It's got PICTURES!

Everything That Can and Cannot Be Recycled, From A to Z
(As encyclopedic as it sounds)

What To Put in the Yellow and Green Buckets

Princeton Recycling Pickup Dates

Mercer County Brochure With Picture of Common Recycling Mistakes (One-page picture that's good for printing out. The one inaccuracy on it is that bottle tops are in fact recyclable.)

Mercer County General Recycling Info

Thanks to Princeton Township's Janet Pellichero for helping with this post.