I don’t have many hoarding tendencies, but every once in a while I find myself unable to throw away some odd thing out of "Earth guilt." The ghost of that iPhone 3 charging cord buried in a landfill somewhere taking a million years to decompose still haunts my dreams, so I used to put all its dead cord younger siblings in a drawer to assuage my guilt.
But really I don’t need to keep these electronic cemeteries in my home.
Most of all the stuff we collect throughout life can be recycled, we just need to know where and when to do it.
Yes, paper, aluminum, glass and many plastics should be recycled, and for most people living in single family homes in Houston, it’s easier than ever to do that. But what about those cables, computers, and microwaves? What if I have an old window I want to get rid of or a big block of Styrofoam? Yep, even these can either find new life or be recycled.
So here are some quick tips for what to do with all that aging or unwanted stuff. Don’t let the ghosts of electronics past keep you up at night. Recycle.
There are many options for those cables and connectors, DVD players, computers and even dinosaurs like VCRs and faxes. Best Buy will recycle many of your electronics as will the Westpark Consumer Recycling Center and the city’s Environmental Service Centers and e-cycling provider CompuCycle.
I think of Westpark as the city’s magical recycling fairy who will take almost anything, including clothing and shoes. There are a few things it won’t take a recycling wand to, like household hazardous waste, oil based paint, videotapes and, strangely enough, pizza boxes, so check the list before heading on over.
While there are several environmentally friendly options for disposing of that old CD player, there are not as many for the actual compact disks. (Kids, ask a responsible adult to give you that important “What’s a CD, Mommy?” talk). Best Buy will take them and if you’ve recently dug up a time capsule and found a mysterious plastic black rectangle labeled V-H-S, CompuCycle will even take those.
Big Junk and Tree Waste
The City of Houston defines “Junk Waste” as furniture, appliances and bulky material and tree waste must be limbs, branches and stumps. Tree waste is collected on odd number months and junk waste on even months. If we’re in an off month and you absolutely, positively need to get rid of that couch but no one even at Goodwill or Free Cycle wants it, you can take it to one of the city’s neighborhood depository facilities, though you will need proof of Houston residency.
Small and Weird
If your junk is on the smaller and weirder side, there’s probably a Houston artist out there who’ll turn it into something beautiful or creepy but artistic. The list of the mundane and strange Texas Art Asylum, at 1719 Live Oak Street, will take is pretty long, from baskets to mylar to teeth. Donations are tax deductible through their nonprofit affiliate The Center for Recycled Art. Do check the drop off schedule because they tend to only accept donations the first and last week of every month.
Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs
Besides Westpark and the Environmental Service Centers, many of the big box home improvement stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot will recycle everybody’s favorite new light bulb, the compact fluorescent. Lowe’s will also take those plastic planters off your hands.
Yes, you can and should recycle those milk containers and juice boxes. They can go in the general recycling bins.
Those pesky packing blocks are actually plastic #6 and curbside recycling only allows for plastics #1-#5 and #7. To the rescue comes our best recycling friend Westpark Consumer Recycling Center and the South Environmental Service Center at 11500 South Post Oak. Both sites will now take those blocks, but unfortunately not those styrofoam peanuts.
Not only will Spec’s recycle all those corks from your wine bottles, but they’ll also make a donation to The Ready or Not Ready Foundation, which raises awareness and dollars for pediatric brain cancer. Texas Art Asylum accepts corks, too.
Building Material and Supplies
If you’re DYI-ing that home renovation or remodel and not sure how to dispose of your remnants or if you’re just afraid your contractor is going to haul away that old sink to the nearest open dumpster, the City of Houston has the solution. Donate your old building stuff to the Reuse Warehouse on 9003 N. Main, where nonprofit organizations can come and collect it for free. Take any cabinets, electrical fixtures, plywood, roofing material, and even bathtubs in suitable condition to Reuse. There are a few things the warehouse won’t take like used carpet and paint, but otherwise they’ll make sure even that green dragon wagon (watch the video for his story) gets to an area nonprofit who will love it.
There are a few items you should throw in the garbage but with care. While rechargeable batteries can go to Westpark or Best Buy, you can drop alkaline batteries in your trash, just be sure to tape the the terminals for 9V and 6V batteries and seal in a plastic bag. If you have unused pharmaceuticals, mix them in kitty litter or coffee grounds, to keep away nosey animals or people, and place in a sealed bag. Or take advantage of National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on September 26 and let HPD do the work.
Do you have your own favorite weird thing that can be recycled and a place to do it? Let us know in the comments section below.