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This final followup to Thoughts on Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling focuses on recycling—the last option before heading for a landfill, and the one people think about most frequently.

Since recycling receives the most attention, most people have a pretty good idea of what should be done. The hard part then becomes doing it, all the time.

What can we easily recycle, and how do we do it? Unfortunately, this varies significantly from county to county and state to state. Here in Fairfax County, VA, we are lucky – we dump paper, plastic, glass, and cans into our cubside pick-up bins once a week. In other places, these items need to be kept separate, and sometimes even glass needs to be separated by color.

The things we recycle through our weekly curb-site pick-up include:

  • Paper mail and envelopes. If it has personal info, it goes through the shredder first.
  • All cardboard boxes, whether food (cereal, crackers, etc.) or shipping (corrugated cardboard, etc.)
  • Phone books, newspapers, and any other paper that comes along. No paper goes in our trash unless it’s contaminated with food.
  • Glass bottles, glass jars (from jams, ketchup, etc. — more and more are plastic now though), aluminum soda cans, metal food cans (soup, corn, etc.).
  • Plastic bottles and jugs. The interesting twist here is that only bottles with a neck narrower than the bottle are allowed—i.e. soda bottles and gallon milk jugs are good, but sour cream containers are not.

After these basics, there are a couple other things we regularly recycle that require a little extra attention:

  • Yard waste like weeds, branches, and brush has to be tied or placed in specific types of bags (check your county) and left at the curb on certain days.
  • Electronics recycling has gained attention in recent years. A few times a year we make a trip to a monthly PC Recycler, Inc. free residential collection event. We drop off any old or broken electronics such as computer equipment, DVD players, stereo equipment, etc. “Anything with a plug” is their motto.

Something we don’t currently do is composting food scraps. This is probably because the majority of our leftover food scraps end up inside our dogs! However, I’ve heard from friends who do it that it’s good way to reduce the need for purchasing fertilizer.

Have any other recycling suggestions? Click through to the web site and leave a comment on the post!

Click the Fairfax County recycling guidelines image below for a full-sized PDF version:


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