Did you know it takes 95% more energy to mine raw materials to make a can than to recycle one that is already in use? Recycling metal puts money back into your local economy, reduces water pollution and earth disruption, and reduces landfill contributions. If you do not recycle anything else, metal is a great place to start!
When you think metal recycling you probably think about a food or drink can, but it is much more than that. Batteries, electronics, home goods and more should also be recycled.
Aluminum and steel cans are the easiest materials to collect and recycle. Even if you are a novice and do not separate plastics and paper at home, cans are an easy place to start. Each can is worth money that you can put back into your local economy. Our community recycling center, which is also the same property as our voting precinct, is funded by selling the metal, paper and plastics that are brought there for recycling. In our small county the economic benefits of recycling are very tangible, and I would bet it’s a small percentage of residents that even bring materials other than refuse. Imagine if even 75% of the population recycled, we might get enough funds to fix a road or improve a community park not to mention additional jobs.
If you live in a rural area and you have to separate your metals an easy rule of thumb is aluminum bends easily whereas steal is hard to flatten. Find a spare bin you can put near your waste and at a minimum collect and return your cans. If you already recycle metal have you considered aluminum foil, aerosol cans, or jar lids. To recycle aluminum foil, start a ball with used foil and continue to add to it until you reach about the size of a soda can and toss it in with the aluminum recycling. Most aerosol cans are made of aluminum or steel, ensure ALL of the product has been expelled or the canister can explode under pressure. Check with your collector, most communities can place empty aerosol cans in the curbside bins. Most glass jar lids are steel and can be recycled with other steel cans as well.
When batteries begin to breakdown in landfills, they leak chemicals into the ground which causes soil and water pollution. Where I currently live in Lynchburg Virginia, the landfill is just outside of downtown on top of a hill. Less than 100 yards down hill is the water treatment plant for the city and a river that is used for fishing and recreation. Do you think it takes long for pollution to leach from the landfill into the water source? Batteries can be taken apart and used to make new products preventing landfill pollution and reducing mining for raw materials. Batteries can be collected at home, the office or school and taken to most office supply stores to be recycled free of charge. More then ever, it is important to recycle lithium batteries as renewable energies are being more widely used and in many cases require lithium to store energy.
There are many precious metals that go into making our phones, tablets, TVs and more. Electronics contain copper, lithium, tin, silver, gold, nickel, and aluminum. The mineral deposits required for these metals are limited and destructive to mine. An estimated 85-90% of gold used to produce electronics is thrown away. If there is any life left in your unused electronics, wipe your data and donate it to a local non-profit. Tablets and computers are especially in need at this time as many students are learning remote. Best Buy also takes back electronics and appliances and recycles them for free. If you have saved every iPhone, MP3 player, game console, and laptop, take them to be recycled and made into new products. Dell and Apple also take back their respective devices and certifies the safety of data of those devices and in some cases will give you a credit towards your next purchase. You can also partner with your employer, most organizations work with a certified recycler to clear data from used electronics. I have worked with my employer to coordinate a free companywide electronic take back event.
Challenge yourself and your household to take one more step toward sustainable living by giving your used metals a new life and prevent the destructive mining of raw materials while contributing to your local economy.
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