Close the loop: Recycle more than you trash

Are you casting your lot in with a trashy crowd?

As the world’s population continues to grow and our planet’s finite resources dwindle, it’s more important than ever to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Instead of adding to the waste stream, take a closer look at what’s going into your trash. The things that can be recycled — and the benefits recycling brings — might surprise you.

According to the Pennsylvania DEP, the recycling and reuse industries employ 52,316 people; make sales of $20.6 billion and have an annual payroll of $2.2 billion. According to statistics on the DEP site, by “recycling over 1.2 million tons of steel in 2005, Pennsylvanians saved 1.4 million tons of iron ore, 829,786 tons of coal, and 71,124 tons of limestone. Through recycling newsprint, office paper and mixed paper, we saved the equivalent of 78 million tree seedlings grown for 10 years. Recycling often produces better products than those made of virgin materials; for instance, the tin in “tin” cans is more refined (thus more valuable) after being processed for recycling.”

So what are you waiting for? Skip the trash bin and reduce, reuse and recycle. You’ll be helping the economy and Mother Nature.

To get you started, we’ve put together lists of items that you can keep out of the waste stream, and the places that will accept them.

 Into your recycling bin(s):

  • Aluminum and bi-metal cans
  •  Glass bottles from food and drink
  • Plastic items, such as bottles from milk, soda, juice and other food items.? Check with your recycling service to see what number plastics are accepted. Some will take 1 through 7; others may take only 1 and 2.
  • Toilet paper and paper towel rolls
  • Paperboard egg cartons
  • Tissue boxes and cereal boxes
  • Pill bottles (remove personal information first)
  • Aluminum foil, aluminum pie plates?
    Note: In some cases, paper items such as junk mail, phone books, brown bags and paperback books can also be placed in recycling bins. Check with your recycling service. 

 Drop-off centers:

  • Allentown, Bethlehem and Whitehall are among the local municipalities that have drop-off centers. Check to see if there’s one in your area.
  • Allentown’s drop off center is open to anyone, resident or not. It’s on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive  next to the 15th Street Bridge. In addition to any item that can be recycled curbside, the center also accepts:
  • Bikes, fencing, tools
  • Gutters, sidings, rebar
  • Lawn mowers (no gas in tank)
  • Metal furniture, shelving
  • Aluminum siding, plumbing
  • Pipes, faucets, valves, tubs, basins
  • Pots and pans
  • Small appliances
  • Any small metal parts or items
  • Sheet metal and structural pieces
  • Large appliances, including washers, dryers, refrigerators and microwaves
  • Clothing , hats, belts*
  • Drapes, towels, sheets
  • Paired socks and shoes
  • Hard-cover books

*Note: clothing items must be clean, dry, and in plastic bags. Rugs and foam-backed drapes are not accepted. 

Alternative solutions:  

For other items, you’ll need to think outside the curbside box. While it may take a little extra effort to recycle these things, it’s worth the effort:

  • CDs, DVDs , VHS and cassette tapes
  • Tires
    Check with tire shops and big box retailers that sell tires. Also, contact your county or municipal government to see if a tire recycling event is on the schedule.
  • Wood
    Check with your municipality; some drop-off centers will accept wood and wood products.
  • Motor oil, antifreeze, brake fluid
    Many auto parts stores, as well as some big box retailers and local garages, will accept automotive fluids for recycling or safe disposal.
  • Cooking oil
    Often used as a biofuel. Search Earth 911 for a location near you.
  • Crayons
    You can try melting them down yourself into new shapes, or send them to Crazy Crayons. They take broken crayons and recycle them into new ones.
  • Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs, Fluorescent Light Bulbs, Incandescent Bulbs, LED Bulbs
    Many municipalities and counties have seasonal events or drop off centers for light bulbs. You can also send them to Waste Management’s Think Green From Home program.
  •  Trophies
    Is that high school award for “Most Inspired Hall Monitor” collecting dust? Send it to, where it will be melted down and turned into a new one.
  • Eyeglasses
    You can recycle them through The Lions ClubNew Eyes for the Needy, or at the stores LensCrafters and Pearle Vision.
  • Polystyrene Packing Peanuts, Foam Blocks
    Many packing, shipping and moving stores will take used peanuts and packing material. For a partial list of local collection sites, try the Plastic Loosefill Council‘s Website or call  800-828-2214. Some peanuts are not made of styrofoam and can be used in compost. If you find a peanut that looks like a cheese puff, hold it under the tap. If it dissolves, it’s good for your compost bin. If you buy packing materials, consider switching to this type.
  • Batteries
    Check with your municipality to see if there’s a local recycling solution first. Best Buy, Staples, Radio Shack and other big-box retailers take certain types for recycling. You can also try the options below, which are organized by battery type:
  1. Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH), ?Lithium Ion (Li-Ion)
    Laptop computers and other portable devices use Nickel Metal Hydride or Lithium-Ion batteries. ?Check with Greendisk.comAERC Recycling Solutions (located in Allentown)Call2Recycle;  Environment Health and Safety Online. Advanced Green Solutions in Walnutport will take laptop batteries, but call 610-767-2577 to check first.
  2. Button Cell Batteries
    Many shops that replace watch and hearing aid batteries will take old button cell batteries for recycling. Check with a jeweler, watchmaker, or big box store.
  3. Lead acid (automotive, motorcycle, lawn equipment, etc)
    Almost anyplace that sells lead acid batteries will take them for recycling, and often pays a ‘core charge’ that can be used to offset the price of a replacement.
  4.  Rechargeable or single-use batteries
    ?Greendisk.comAERC Recycling Solutions (located in Allentown)Call2Recycle;  Environment Health and Safety Online


Last, but definitely not least: If you have items you no longer need that are still usable, give them to someone else via Freecycle. You can freecycle clothing, furniture, electronics, household items, electronics and more. Search for a Freecycle group in your area.