Much of the solid waste deposited in American landfills will take centuries (at least) to biodegrade and a lot of it contains toxic materials.
In the Bay Area, its easy to recycle paper and cardboard—virtually every community now has curbside pickup programs. Household items and clothing can be taken to Goodwill or other charities and there are several organizations that want material that can be used for art projects. Safely disposing of unwanted high-tech gear and related waste—plastic packing materials, dead batteries and old CDs—requires a little more initiative.
Here is a list of web sites and organizations that can assist you in your recycling efforts. ALWAYS contact an organization before sending or dropping off materials, to be sure the information presented here is still current.
- Cole Hardware Community Exchange—Donate your useable items to a school or nonprofit organization. Post your ad FREE.
- San Francisco Department of the Environment—Information about local recycling programs and hazardous waste pick-up and drop-off.
- Sunset Scavenger Company—San Francisco Residential Recycling Program, Organic Waste Program (compostable materials) and the Bulky-Items Collection Program (San Francisco residents can schedule a pick-up of computers, TVs, mattresses and other large items twice a year—free of charge to residents of buildings with five or fewer units).
- Center for the Development of Recycling—Recycling information for Santa Clara County. The search page lets you search by city or type of material, and then delivers information about recyclers throughout the region.
- Latex paint recycling service—Cole Hardware is a drop-off point for San Francisco residents. (Paint from commercial users will not be accepted.)
- CDR-Links—This directory on the Center for Development of Recycling web site has links to county recycling information sites in ten Northern California counties.
Material for Art and Educational Projects
- Packing Peanuts: Search at Plastic Loose Fill Council for businesses that will reuse your plastic loose fill (packing peanuts). Or call the Peanut Hotline at (800) 828-2214.
- Rigid Foam Packing Materials: The white plastic foam molded into special shapes to hold computers and other gear in place in their cartons is made of a material called expanded polystyrene (EPS). Most recycling programs wont take it, but FP International in Redwood City will take baled EPS. (See Hardware Hotline article ‘Styrofoam’ recycling.)
Computer Reuse and Recycling
- SCRAP—Scroungers Center for Reusable Art Parts collects materials from businesses and individuals that would otherwise be thrown away, and distributes them to art and educational groups. 801 Toland, San Francisco, CA 94124. Phone (415) 647-1746
- East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse collects and redistributes re-usable materials for education, arts and crafts and many other creative projects. 6713 San Pablo Ave., Oakland, CA 94608. Phone (510) 547-6470
- Resource Area for Teachers—RAFT accepts clean, reusable items that can provide Bay Area teachers and community groups with a wide range of interactive learning materials, enhancing math, science, technology and art programs. Only pre-approved items are accepted, so remember to call ahead. 1355 Ridder Park Drive, San Jose, CA 95131. Phone (408) 451-1420
- Make-Stuff.com web site features craft projects and other how to reuse ideas.
- Cole Hardware accepts empty ink jet and laser cartridges for recycling.
- Oakland Technology Exchange-West provides refurbished computers and peripherals to Oakland Unified School District classrooms and students. Only working computer equipment accepted.
- Computer Recycling Center—The first full-service computer collection
and reuse organization in the nation, CRC has programs that refurbish
computers for schools and safely recycle old equipment. Drop-off locations
in Sunnyvale, Santa Rosa and San Fracisco. Some fees may apply.
- Alameda County Computer Resource Center—Calling itself possibly the worlds largest nonprofit computer recycling organization, the center trains people to refurbish computers, which are then donated (with the Linux operating system installed) to schools and disadvantaged people, including people with disabilities. Unusable equipment is safely recycled. Some fees may apply.
- World Computer Exchange—Nonprofit organization collects working, Internet-capable computers and donates them to schools and community-development programs in developing countries. Click the Donate Your Computer link for hardware requirements and other details.
- Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition—The San Francisco Bay Area Computer Recycling and Reuse Directory lists both commercial and nonprofit recycling organizations that can be sorted by category, name, city or ZIP code. Note: Many of the organizations listed take only large lots from businesses, not single units from individuals. And if you dont want your e-waste shipped to Asia for resource recovery in potentially unsafe conditions, call the recycler and ask how it will be handled before you drop anything off.
- Rechargeable Batteries: Every year, Americans go through more than three billion household batteries. Most are not rechargeable, but rechargeables—especially the Ni-Cad variety—are particularly dangerous if not recycled properly. Go to Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation or call (800) 822-8837 to find stores that participate in take-back programs organized by this nonprofit, industry-sponsored organization.
- Disposable Batteries (AA, AAA, C, D, etc.): A 1996 law has resulted in a sharp reduction in the amount of mercury—a dangerous toxin—they contain. Trace amounts remain, however, along with corrosive acids and it is no longer legal to toss such batteries in the trash.
Many businesses in San Francisco (including Cole Hardware) take back all types of household batteries.
Fluorescent bulbs contain mercury and should not be thrown into the trash—bring them to Cole Hardware for recycling! (See Hardware Hotline article Recycle your fluorescent bulbs.)
LensCrafters Give the Gift of Sight—This program collects used eyeglasses, which are cleaned, repaired and classified for delivery to those who would otherwise go without. The program has helped more than 2 million people in the U.S. and 25 developing countries see clearly. The web site has a store locator or call (800) 541-5367.
AOL CDS and Floppies
Bay Area tech workers Jim McKenna and John Lieberman are trying to persuade America Online to stop inundating the world with its software CDs by depositing 1 million unwanted CDs on AOLs doorstep. You can help the effort by sending unbroken AOL, CompuServe and Netscape discs to No More AOL CDs, 1601 Navellier St., El Cerrito, CA 94530. See www.nomoreaolcds.com.
Other CDS and DVDs
AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham said the service would rather you give unwanted discs with its software to friends and colleagues. If you dont want to assist its marketing efforts, you can mail AOL CDs and floppies, along with the packaging they came in, to the attention of the mail room at AOL Headquarters, 22000 AOL Way, Dulles, VA 20166.
Graham said the service, as an expression of its "commitment to the goal of recycling," runs "the largest internal recycling program in the Internet industry" and will accept any discs you dont want. If you dont want to receive others in the future, you can have your name removed from AOLs mailing list by calling customer service at (800) 466-5463. Sorry, you cant do it online.
Local recycling programs typically dont accept CDs for recycling, but at least one Bay Area company and several others around the country do. They will grind up your unwanted discs, including audio CDs, CD-ROMs, CD-Rs and DVDs, and sell the results for manufacturing into other plastic products. You can mail your discs, but you pay the postage.
- M-Cubed LLC 270 E. Caribbean Drive, Sunnyvale, CA 94089. Phone (408) 752-1560 or (800) 377-9933. Open weekdays 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
- Plastic Recycling Inc., 2015 S. Pennsylvania, Indianapolis, IN 46625. Phone (317) 780-6100.
- Consider contributing your unwanted discs to a solar-power experiment. Ray Calkins of Veguita, N.M., is building a CD-based solar concentrator, a device that increases the output of a conventional solar panel by focusing more energy on it. (See www.ecolivingcenter.com/board/recycle/messages/57.html.) If you want to help, send your discs to him at 201 Dolores, Veguita, NM 87026.
Recycled Glassworks in San Francisco accepts the type of glass that windows, shelves, doors and tabletops are made from. See www.RecycledGlassworks.com.