What Should I Do With Scrap Metal?

8-12-18

Scrap metal is any kind of recyclable metal or metallic material leftover from manufacturing or consumer products, including copper, steel, aluminum, brass, nickel and iron. Even though these metals are recyclable, they often end up in the trash because they aren’t recycled through our curbside program.

It’s important to recycle scrap metal because the more we recycle and reuse, the more we reduce ore drilling around the world. Since metals are valuable, you can also make some money while you’re at it! So how can you recycle your scrap metal?

The best way to make sure your scrap gets recycled is to take it to a local scrapyard. Find a list of scrapyards in our Recycling Guide, or try using the iScrap App to search for scrapyard locations and prices.

If you want help identifying scrap metal, use this guide to common types of scrap from Capital Scrap Metal, or check out iScrap’s list of the top 25 types of scrap metal.

What Are Microplastics, Anyway?

8-5-18

Microplastics are a growing environmental concern — from the 2015 ban on microbeads to the more recent discussions on microfibers — but how many of us know what microplastics really are?

Microplastics are pieces of plastic that are less than five millimeters long. We’ve begun to pay closer attention to these small plastic bits only recently, but they actually aren’t all that new. One common form of microplastics, microbeads, first appeared in personal care products fifty years ago.

The reason these tiny plastics have become so popular recently is that they’ve been turning up in our water — in huge quantities.

Because of microplastics, scientists have begun calling our oceans “plastic soup.” A 2015 study estimated the number of plastic particles in our oceans ranged from 15 to 51 trillion pieces, weighing between 93,000 and 236,000 metric tons. But how do all the tiny plastics get there?

Large plastic debris that ends up in the ocean breaks down quickly in the water and sunlight. Because of this, over 90 percent of the plastic in our ocean is less than 10 millimeters long. The problem with small plastics is that — to our knowledge — they will never biodegrade. When they’re eaten by fish, they aren’t fully digested. Instead, they simply accumulate as smaller and smaller pieces that become more difficult to deal with.

About 700 different species consume microplastics, and what happens to animals that eat them isn’t fully known. So far, microplastics have been shown to decrease the overall health of marine worms, and they have also been shown to transfer pollutants to animals that consume them. Given what we know about the health hazards of plastics in general, it seems likely that other negative effects will surface as research continues.

Microplastics are also small enough to work their way into our tap water, because they slip easily through our water filters. According to a recent study, microplastics were found in over 94 percent of U.S. water samples. Microfibers — tiny strands of synthetic fabric — are another common source of microplastics. These work their way into the water supply each time we run our polyester and nylon clothing through a washing machine.

To combat the growing issue of microplastics, the U.S. passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act in 2015, banning plastic microbeads from cosmetics and other personal care products such as toothpaste and exfoliants. Researchers are currently hard at work to build better water filters for our water supply, and to find new ways to remove plastic trash from our oceans. The best thing for the rest of us to do is limit our use of plastic, especially single-use plastics and synthetic clothing.

Learn more about how to reduce plastic waste.

Put a Recycling Bin in Your Bathroom

7-29-18

Do you forget to recycle your bathroom products? Try putting a recycling bin in your bathroom.

For a lot of us, it’s an out-of-sight, out-of-mind kind of issue. A lot of bathroom products are recyclable, but it’s easy to forget about when the only recycling container lives in your kitchen or garage. A second recycling bin next your bathroom trash bin will remind you to recycle and make it easier.

Curious about what’s recyclable in your bathroom? Read this post on bathroom products to find out.

Why Do Fish Eat Plastic?

7-22-18

When you enjoy a bite of fish, you’re probably not thinking about what your food spent its life eating. Now, however, you may need to.

Researchers have found 100 species of fish that consume plastic trash in the ocean. Because the plastic does not fully biodegrade, it becomes absorbed into their body tissue and accumulates over time. Although plastic does not generally kill the fish that eat it, it does have other negative health effects, such as reduced liver functionality and reduced overall activity.

This becomes an issue for humans because when we eat a fish with plastic in its system, that plastic is likely to accumulate in our bodies, too.

Plastic in the ocean is a well-documented environmental problem. What we don’t understand as well is why fish are drawn to eat the plastic in the first place. One study shows that smell may be a key factor.

In the experiment, anchovies responded to the smell of plastic debris in their seawater just as they did to floating krill (their typical food) and actual plastic debris — with movements indicating they were searching for food. The anchovies perceive the smell of plastic debris as a potential food signal. This doesn’t tell us exactly why they are eating the plastic. However, it does tell us that the appearance and smell of plastic is confusing to them, so they are likely to continue eating it if it remains in their habitat.

Toss Your Shredded Paper

7-15-18

Shredded paper is a disposal conundrum! Because of how tiny it is, it cannot be placed in the recycling. It will either jam up the machines at the recycling facility or slip through the paper separator and end up in the trash. Because of this, toss all shredded paper in the garbage.

Ultimately, the best way to solve the shredded paper conundrum is to limit how much paper you shred in the first place. Only shred the portions of papers that contain sensitive information.

The Next Time You Go Camping, Skip the Trash — Here’s How

7-8-18

There’s nothing like a trip into the great outdoors to help you unwind, reset and reconnect with Mother Nature. Unfortunately, a camping trip can also create a lot of waste, which isn’t so good for her.

In Yosemite National Park alone, visitors generate 2,200 tons of garbage annually. That’s the pound-for-pound equivalent of about 15 blue whales.

The good news is that you don’t have to give up on your time in nature to reduce the waste you leave behind. Instead, try these tips to reduce your footprint the next time you’re venturing outdoors — you’ll even save money in the long run.

1. Leave excess packaging at home. Bring as little packaging on your trip as possible. Toss as much as you can before you leave home — this way, you won’t risk accidentally leaving it behind as litter. You can also reduce the amount of packaging waste you generate in the first place by avoiding single-use items such as water bottles, and opting for products that come in bulk or that use minimal packaging to begin with.

2. Refill as much as you can. Bring reusable and refillable items on your trip instead of disposable ones. Reusable bags, travel mugs, cookware, food containers and utensils will all save on waste. You can even refill cooking gas canisters. Find a retailer such as Ace Hardware or REI who will refill your gas canisters through the Refuel Your Fun program.

3. Recharge as much as you can. Choose electronics that run on rechargeable batteries instead of ones that require disposable batteries. Lanterns, flashlights and headlamps tend to come in both varieties, and it’s easy to pack portable chargers to keep them running instead of relying on fresh batteries that will soon need to be tossed.

4. Pack out trash. This is easier said than done. A lot of folks are tempted to leave some item or other on the trail or in the wilderness that won’t biodegrade quickly — or ever. You can avoid this by packing a couple of bags to collect your trash and recycling, and remember not to feed leftover food to wild animals.

5. Dispose of items correctly. Rules for recycling and disposal are different in every area, so either check for information on a local website or look for clear signage at disposal bins. Otherwise, you can always bring your waste home with you to dispose of correctly there.

6. Donate unwanted gear. Some people will leave unneeded gear roadside when they don’t need it after a camping trip. Even if there are items that you can’t bring home with you due to flight restrictions or other reasons, consider donating them to a local organization instead of abandoning them outside. You can avoid this problem in the future by renting gear you don’t want to keep instead of buying it.

What Is Plastic?

7-1-18

Everyone has been talking about plastic lately, but how well do we actually understand plastic? Learn what plastic is and how it’s made by watching this video by National Geographic.


Old Dishes Are Not Recyclable — Here’s How to Get Rid Them

dishes

6-24-18

At some point in time, we all end up with dishes and glassware we don’t need. Some things break, others get lost, people move and needs change. Whether they’re family hand-me-downs or an incomplete set, here’s what you can do with unwanted dishes:

Toss all broken items. If dishes are broken, or have bad chips, cracks or stains, toss them. Wrap any sharp edges or pieces in newspaper, place them in a plastic bag, label them as “broken glass,” and throw them away. Broken glass is never recyclable because it’s a hazard for sanitation workers to handle it.

Glassware and Pyrex can be donated or tossed. Glassware and Pyrex are not recyclable. They have different melting points than regular glass jars and bottles, and they can contaminate an entire batch of recycled glass. Donate any items that are reusable. Otherwise, be sure to toss them.

Ceramic items can be donated or tossed. Ceramic items cannot be recycled at most facilities, though sometimes facilities that recycle bricks and concrete will recycle ceramics. If your ceramic dishes are reusable, donate them!

Vintage china can often be sold. Try selling your china to an organization such as International Association of Dinnerware Matchers or Replacements, Ltd.

Upcycle! There are dozens of ways to upcycle old dishes. Check out Pinterest for inspiration.