Recycling 202 - Black Enterprise

Recycling 202

Learn to recycle more than bottles and cans

We all know how to recycle newspapers and water bottles. But when it comes to other items, “many consumers either don’t know they should recycle or they’re not aware of convenient recycling opportunities in their local area,” says Jennifer Boone Bemisderfer, a spokesperson with the Arlington, Virginia-based Consumer Electronics Association. But many organizations, manufacturers and retailers are making recycling easier, and some, such as New York-based RecycleBank, provide an added incentive. By mailing in recyclable products such as cell phones, MP3 players, and laptops, consumers receive points that can be redeemed for discounts at local and national retailers. “We’re rewarding people for greener actions,” says Melody Serafino, a spokesperson for RecycleBank. Here’s how to recycle some other less common household items.

Air conditioners. Refrigerants (chemicals that create the cooling effect) can be harmful to the ozone layer, so air conditioners as well as refrigerators and freezers, should not be simply left to languish in a landfill. Instead, call your local department of public works since many will come and pick up such items with bulk trash. However, many municipalities will require you to hire a technician or used appliance dealer to remove the refrigerant prior to pickup. Check also with your utility provider since some have incentive programs in which they’ll pay you a small bounty such as $50 for collecting certain appliances.

Batteries. National retailers such as Best Buy, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Target, Radio Shack, and Sears have teamed with Call2Recycle, an organization that collects rechargeable batteries–such as those found in cordless phones and laptops–for recycling. To find other drop-off spots, call 877.2.RECYCLE or go to . For single-use alkaline batteries found in items like remote controls, toys, and flashlights, it’s harder to find recycling options. Contact your local waste management department, but according to battery manufacturer Duracell, alkaline batteries can be safely disposed of in household trash.

Cell Phones. When you upgrade your phone, ask your mobile provider to recycle your old one. Practically all major mobile phone service providers accept phones for recycling, including Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Some phone manufacturers such as Nokia and Samsung also accept old phones for recycling. There are also a number of Websites that promote cell phone recycling through incentives including, which makes a donation to charity for every cell phone received, and, which pays a small financial reward of $5 to $200-plus for some phones and personal digital assistants.

Computers. Recycling computers provides many people with inexpensive access to technology and keeps landfills free of electronic waste products like lead and mercury. Most computer manufacturers–including Apple, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard–accept all computer brands for recycling. A number of retailers–including Costco, Staples, and Office Depot–also recycle computers, though some charge a nominal fee in the neighborhood of $10 for the convenience.  Before recycling, erase the hard drive with a free utility program such as Darik’s Boot and Nuke (DBAN) for Windows and ShredIt X for Macs.

Light Bulbs. It’s against the law to throw fluorescent light bulbs in the trash in California, Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. And it’s bad for the environment to throw them away elsewhere. Instead, find a recycling center at the Environmental Protection Agency Website or mail in your old bulbs through Also, Home Depot offers free recycling of compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs in all of its stores.