While yesterday was the official Earth Day celebration, you can continue the celebration by starting new habits in your kitchen like recycling what comes into your kitchen or replacing items with reusable versions. Some of these changes are easy to set up, and others may take a little more time to get used to like composting. Check with your local municipality about the recycling program to make sure you don’t include items that aren’t accepted. Also think before you buy since a little forethought can increase the number of items you can recycle while reducing what you throw away.
Compost Food Scraps
Lots of food items can be composted: non-glossy paper, fruit and vegetable peels and scraps, clean eggshells, coffee grounds, tea leaves, and more. Anything with meat or oil cannot be composted because of the smell, they take much longer to break down, and they attract animal pests. Unless you’re out in the country and can get your compost pile heated up a lot, it’s best to skip composting meat.
Some food scraps like onion, carrot, and celery peelings can be collected in the freezer in a plastic bag (recycle a bread bag!) to make stock with chicken bones. The food scraps will need to be tossed after cooking since they’ve come in contact with meat.
Recycle Paper Products or Replace with Cloth Versions
If you don’t replace napkins and paper towels with cloth ones, then recycle what you can. Anything with meat or oil residue needs to go in the trash since they can’t be recycled or put in the compost bin. Paper bags can be recycled as long as they are completely clean. To recycle a bag with food stains, cut out the stains and put them in the trash and put the remaining clean areas in the recycling.
Handles on paper bags made from another material, such as plastic, string or ribbon, should be removed before recycling. See if you can recycle these items for crafts or gift wrapping before tossing them. Don’t forget clean cardboard boxes and paper grocery bags can be used as weed barriers in the garden.
Aluminum foil is completely recyclable. Make sure it’s completely clean since many recycling programs will not accept soiled aluminum foil. Tin and steel cans are accepted in the majority of curbside recycling programs with steel being the most recycled metal.
Aerosol cans have to be completely empty and no longer able to spray to be recyclable. Often the lid can be recycled; check for the number to see if your program will accept it. Some programs are okay if the lid remains on the aerosol can; others require it to be removed. Don’t remove spray nozzle since the can is pressurized.
To avoid aerosol cans, purchase a refillable pump spray bottle and refill it yourself. Not only do you reduce your use of aerosol cans, you’ll save money since aerosol cans are more expensive than buying oil in bulk.
All glass jars are recyclable. Do remove metal lids before recycling. Check if your program requires separating the glass by color. Frozen food containers are generally not recyclable because they are often coated in plastic. Look for containers made from cardboard or film plastics, and make sure you remove the plastic liner before recycling.
Can Recycle as long as it’s not wet or food-soiled
- Grocery & retail bags
- The outer Wrapping from Napkins, Paper Towels, Bathroom Tissue & Diapers
- Bread bags
- The outer wrapping from bulk beverages
- Produce bags
- All clean, dry bags Labeled #2 or #4
- Food or cling wrap
- Prepackaged food bags (including frozen food bags and pre-washed salad bags)
Most plastic jugs are recyclable. It’s usually a good idea to rinse before recycling the jug, and crush it to reduce the “air weight” before putting the cap back on. Check with your recycling program to see if they require rinsing and whether or not the cap can be left on. Since many plastics are made with PET/#1 or HDPE/#2 and the caps are generally made with #5, these plastic resins need to be processed separately because of their different melting points.
Small appliances are generally recycled like small electronics. Recycling your electronics helps ensure many valuable materials like plastic, aluminum, copper and gold do not go to waste and prevents less desirable chemicals from getting into the environment. If the small appliance is in working order, donate it; otherwise, drop it off at a hazardous waste recycling day. Many municipalities have them once or twice a year.