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Spring cleaning? Keep the focus on recycling and reusing while decluttering

Workers sorting recycling materialsWith spring's arrival, it's time to ensure everything in your home is in the proper place - including the stuff that you simply want to get rid of.

Rather than just automatically pitching unwanted items into the trash, think in terms of recycling and reusing while cleaning and decluttering.

Recycling facilities gear up in the spring for an influx of materials at their sorting facilities.

However, some of what spring cleaners place in their recycling bins doesn't belong there - at least in its current condition. For example, containers that themselves are recyclable are dangerous if they still contain chemicals, such as bleach or drain cleaner, that can mix and cause fires at recycling facilities.

Household items like batteries should never be put in recycling bins, whether in a device like a cell phone, laptop, watch, or alone. Lithium-ion batteries as small as a dime when damaged in a sorting machine can start a fire and cause significant damage and even disrupt your recycling services.

Here's some guidance on how to handle materials that are commonly encountered during spring cleaning:

  • Household hazardous waste such as cleaners, fertilizers, paint, solvents, acids, fuel, electronics, batteries, aerosol cans, etc. Many counties and local governments host local collection events every spring and fall where residents can dispose of hazardous waste from their home. EGLE has a webpage devoted to household hazardous waste, including a list of statewide collection sites and a new, short video explaining what is a hazardous waste: Hazardous Waste 101.  Some retailers also offer recycling options for materials they commonly sell. When cleaning house, see if your cell carrier will recycle your phone (and battery), or your hardware store will take your old drill (and battery) and recycle or remanufacture it.  Keep the batteries in the device.  If you need to remove the battery to recycle it, be sure to tam for the household collection and discard the device, be to tape the terminals as shown on EGLE's Household Hazardous Waste webpage to prevent sparking and fires.
  • Pieces of metal, such as old grills, rusty lawn mower blades, or pots and pans. Scrap metal is generally not accepted curbside, but some drop-off recycling centers will take it. Some scrap yards will pay for dropped-off metal.
  • Hoses, boat shrink-wrap and other types of flexible plastics. Recycling facilities don't want these materials because they can get tangled in their machinery, but they're ripe for reuse. In addition, the fledgling Recycling Run Program will pick up used shrink-wrap by appointment and find a new use for it.
  • Plastic flowerpots and plant containers. Some recycling services will accept these materials curbside, provided they're not full of dirt. You could also possibly reuse them or see if the retailer where you bought them will take them back. Home Depot stores and Meijer garden centers also collect them for recycling in partnership with East Jordan Plastics.
  • Plastic lawn chairs. Consider donating these if they're in good condition.
  • Electronic-waste, such as old computers or TVs. Look for local drop-off centers or one-day collection events. Some electronics retailers will also take e-waste turned in by consumers. In addition, some manufacturers provide a takeback option for electronics like televisions and computers.
  • Clothing. This is a big no-no for curbside recycling. However, local thrift shops can find new uses for most donated garments. You could also turn them into rags to use for cleaning in place of paper towels.
  • Mattresses. There may be local drop-off centers or one-day collection events for mattress disposal. If you have curbside waste services, check with your service provider or local municipality regarding options for bulky waste pickup.
  • Supplies from the first cookout of the year after your spring cleanup is finished: paper plates, plastic plates and cups, straws, plastic utensils, etc. Most of this should go in the trash, which is why it's best to choose reusable options. Exceptions are clean aluminum foil and plastic cups, which are often recyclable curbside, though foam containers are rarely accepted, McKeen said.

To find more information on local curbside recycling programs in Michigan see the Recycling Racoons Local Rules.

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