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Recycling Resources

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Reducing your environmental impact means putting recycling in perspective. First consider reducing your fuel consumption at home and on the road; think about buying less stuff that you'll ultimately need to either discard or sort for the recycling bin.

But for what you must consume, there are ways to recycle nearly everything. 

 

Curbside collection: Curbside collection of recyclables is mandatory in Pennsylvania communities over 5,000. Many smaller communities do it, too, and most at least provide somewhere to drop off the same newspapers and glass, plastic and metal containers curbside schemes collect.

Tips: Keep all materials free of food and other contaminants; rinse out containers and remove lids and caps (they hinder compaction). But leaving labels on is OK (they are processed out).

 

Yard waste is one-eighth of all household waste; compost it if you can. Few communities collect leaves, grass and other plant matter curbside, but many operate drop-off sites for their residents. (Leave out rocks, dirt and lumber.)

 

Food scraps are 12.5 percent of household waste, but only a handful of municipalities (such as San Francisco) collect it. Consider backyard composting or vermiculture -- keeping worms who'll turn your apple cores into rich fertilzer.

 

Household Hazardous Waste. The average Pennsylvanian annually produces about four pounds of unregulated hazardous materials, including cleaners, automotive fluids, painting supplies and lawn chemicals. Don't throw these poisons out. The Southwestern PA Household Hazardous Waste Task Force (412-488-7452; www.swpahhw.org) holds monthly regional collections. (The next one is 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sat., April 26, at Settlers Cabin Park Wave Pool.) There's a $2-a-gallon disposal fee.

 

Freon appliances. Some municipalities, including Pittsburgh, collect furniture and some appliances as bulk waste, but not refrigerators or air-conditioners. Instead, contact Construction Junction (412-243-5025) or Appliance Warehouse (412-381-8800).

 

Building materials. Construction Junction (412-243-5025), in North Point Breeze, takes donations of used building materials, fixtures and appliances in good reusable condition, with free pick-up for big donations.

 

Computers and other electronics. These are full of valuable (and often toxic) metals, but difficult to disassemble. Some manufacturers, including Dell, take back their wares for recycling. Goodwill agencies accept computer donations. Retail outlets including Staples take machines for a fee -- typically, $10 each for a hard drive, monitor or printer. Pittsburgh-based ComReCycle (412-403-8280) also accepts materials for a fee. 

 

Batteries. Best Buy, Staples and Radio Shack are among the retail outlets that accept used dry-cell household batteries. So does the Southwestern PA Household Hazardous Waste Task Force (see above).

 

More information. The Allegheny County Health Department (412-578-8390) publishes "Recycle Together," a 20-page brochure on recycling everything from videotapes to propane tanks. Earth 911, a national nonprofit group, hosts a Web site (Earth911.org) that provides recycling resources by ZIP code. Web sites like freecyle.org help you give away unwanted item for reuse.

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