How To Recycle Items That Don’t Go In Home Recycling Bin

Plastic bags, Amazon packaging, old cellphones and appliances are among items that can’t go into household recycling bins.

With the local and national recycling markets trying to adapt to China no longer accepting American plastics, consumers are being asked to be smarter at recycling.

Another part of this can involve finding ways to recycle stuff that can’t go in the home bins.SHIPPING PACKAGING, PLASTIC BAGS 

Plastic and paper bags sit ready for use at a Duluth grocery checkout. (Steve Kuchera / Forum News Service file)

These days, more and more consumer goods are purchased online and delivered to the customer’s front door.

But as online shopping grows in popularity, what to do with the packaging all the purchases come in?

While cardboard boxes and paper envelopes can be disposed of through local curbside recycling programs, Amazon envelopes covered in a plastic film can not.

Amazon uses a labeling system on their packages that provide information on how a certain package can be recycled.

And, what about those plastic bags from the grocery store? They’re useful to carry small items but can’t be put into a home recycling bin.

Many grocery and retail stores — such as Target and Lunds & Byerlys — have recycling bins at the front of the store where people can bring Amazon packaging as well as plastic bags.

The plastic is then sold and used to make other material.

At Lunds & Byerlys, recycled plastic bags and packaging are sold to the company Trex, where they are used to make composite lumber for decks and railings.

To find a location to drop off these recyclables, the organization Plastic Film Recycling offers a web page where users can type in a zip code to find nearby locations to recycle their plastic bags and packaging.

Along with collecting Amazon envelopes and plastic bags, these drop-off recycling locations also accept other kinds of plastic packaging such as the plastic wrapping toilet paper or paper towel bundles come in.ELECTRONICS, APPLIANCES 

A large carton full of circuit boards await recycling at Tech Dump in St. Paul. (Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press file)

Many electronic items contain hazardous materials such as lead and mercury.

These chemicals can have a negative impact on human health and the environment and should not be put in the garbage.

They also are not collected by local recycling haulers because the batteries in some electronics like iPhones can be dangerous.

While they also are not collected by local recycling haulers, there are ways to recycle these devices. Some companies, such as Best Buy, will take back certain electronic items.

Other places, like Tech Dump in St. Paul, will collect and recycle old electronics for a fee.CELLPHONES, SMALL ELECTRONICS: RECYCLING FOR A GOOD CAUSE

It sounds like an unlikely place to recycle a cellphone, but the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in St. Paul will accept old unwanted cellphones and other small handheld electronic devices.

The phones and devices can be dropped off at the visitor services desk during business hours.

For more than a decade, the zoo has collected and then sold these devices to a company called Eco-Cell, which works to conserve habitats by reducing demand for new material in phones.

The batteries in many products, such as iPhones, contain the material coltan, which is often mined in places like the Congo where gorillas and chimpanzees live.

The funds the Como Zoo receives from these recycled items are used to support other conservation projects, according to Susie VanBlaircom, education and conservation curator at the zoo.

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