L.A. at Home

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Category: Recycling

Can I recycle cardboard and other packaging?

We asked you to send your household recycling questions, and among the inquiries we got back: What about coated cardboard food canisters (think Pringles), the cardboard cores of paper towel and toilet tissue rolls, and dispensers for hearing-aid batteries. We've compiled answers into this one installment of Can I Recycle ... ?

Cardboard canisters lined with foil -- the kind of packaging often used in containers for Pringles chips and other snacks -- cannot be recycled in Los Angeles' blue bins. They are made from a mix of materials that cannot be separated, so they should be placed in the black trash bin. Only the plastic lid can be recycled.

Because policies and recommendations can vary from city to city, each week we ask a sampling of officials from various municipalities to weigh in. Can you recycle coated cardboard food canisters in ...

Recycling coated cardboardBurbank: Only the lid.

Long Beach: Only the lid.

Los Angeles: Only the lid.

Manhattan Beach: Yes.

Riverside: Only the lid.

Santa Monica: Yes.

Torrance: No. The plastic lid can be recycled only if it includes a recycling symbol.

Unincorporated Los Angeles: Only the lid.

Ventura: Only the lid.

Keep in reading for the answers on paper towel and toilet tissue cores and more ...

Continue reading »

The Garbage Maven: How to dispose of old medication?

PillsLike a lot of Americans, I have a cupboard that has accumulated bottles of medicine so old, I can’t even remember what brought me to the doctor to get them. There are expired antibiotics, nasal sprays, cough suppressants — all of which I’d like to dump as responsibly as possible. The question is: How?

California hospitals generate almost 30 million pounds of pharmaceutical and contaminated packaging waste, according to the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery. Nationally, 7.8 billion needles are discarded outside of healthcare settings each year, the Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal has said. And more than 250 million pounds of unused, dispensed medications are generated annually, according to Sharps Compliance, which runs a take-back program.

Insulin needles and drugs of so many different types have enormous implications not only for the environment but for human and animal health. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is detecting prescription and over-the-counter drugs at “very low” but increasing levels in drinking water, according to its website. In 2009, the EPA added the antibiotic erythromycin and nine hormones to its Contaminant Candidate List, which identifies substances that might require future regulation.

Continue reading »

Can I recycle floor mats?

It's a double dose of our recycling feature today, looking at the often confusing and contradictory recycling policies of Southern California cities. Case in point: Plastic floor mats -- the kind often used under desk chairs at home or at work -- usually are made from polypropylene or flexible PVC tiles, which can be recycled in Los Angeles' blue bins. Large mats, however, can block the sorting screens at the recycling facilities. If the mats can be safely cut into pieces that fit easily into the blue bin, they can be recycled. Mats that cannot go in the blue bin and that are too damaged for donation can be picked up free of charge through bulky-item pickup by dialing 3-1-1, but they will not be recycled.

Because policies and recommendations can vary from city to city, each week we ask a sampling of officials from various municipalities to weigh in. Can you recycle plastic floor mats in ...

Floor matsCulver City: No.

Glendale: Yes, if cut to fit inside recycling bin.

Long Beach: No.

Los Angeles: Yes, if mats are polypropylene or flexible PVC and if pieces are small enough to fit into the blue bin.

Manhattan Beach: Yes, if they are entirely plastic.

Riverside: Yes.

Santa Barbara: Yes, if plastic Nos. 1, 2, 4 or 5.

Santa Monica: No.

Recycling illustrationALSO:

The archive: Can I Recycle ... ?

Trying to reduce junk mail at home

Kids' party with no trash? That was the goal

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Los Angeles Times

 


Can I recycle books?

In an ideal world, books would be read and passed along for years. But that isn't always the case. Some books get damaged and are unreadable. Los Angeles residents can recycle hardcover and softcover books, with or without jackets, as mixed paper in curbside blue bins.

It's still best to resell or donate books in good (or even moderately good) condition. Most local charities, such as the Salvation Army, as well as thrift stores, youth groups, literacy centers, homeless shelters and -- as one reader kindly pointed out, libraries -- accept books. Organizations such as Bridge to Asia, a nonprofit that supplies donated books to Chinese universities, is also an option.

Because policies and recommendations can vary from city to city, each week we ask a sampling of officials from various municipalities to weigh in. Can you recycle hardcover and softcover books in ...

Recycling booksArcadia: Yes

Burbank: Yes, with hardback spines removed

Glendale: Yes

Irvine: Yes, with hardback covers and spines removed

Long Beach: Yes, with hardback covers removed

Los Angeles: Yes

Manhattan Beach: Yes

Pasadena: Yes

Riverside: Yes

Santa Ana: Yes, if hardback covers and spines are removed

Santa Barbara: Yes

Santa Monica: Yes

Torrance: Yes

Unincorporated L.A.: Yes, if hardback spines and covers are removed

Ventura: Yes, if hardback covers are removed

West Hollywood: Yes

Recycling illustrationALSO:

The archive: Can I Recycle ... ?

Trying to reduce junk mail at home

Kids' party with no trash? That was the goal

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Julie Ewan / Washington Post



Santa Monica, Costa Mesa try to reduce junk mail [Updated]

MailtruckAllenSchabenFour Southern California areas have joined Chicago, Seattle and a growing roster of other cities working with Catalog Choice to cut the junk from residents' mail. Last week Santa Monica, Redlands and areas served by the Costa Mesa Sanitation District partnered with the Berkeley-based junk-mail opt-out service to help residents stop unwanted catalogs, phone books, coupons, circulars, credit card offers and other unsolicited mail before it's sent. Pasadena will launch in April. [Updated Feb. 16, 2012, 2:15 p.m.: The original version of this post said Pasadena's partnership with Catalog Choice launched last week.]

Each city was given a dedicated website to connect residents to the Catalog Choice program. Such links have more than doubled junk mail opt-outs in Berkeley; Santa Fe, N.M.; Brookline, Mass.; and other cities where the program has been in place since launching last year, according to Catalog Choice founder Chuck Teller.

"The participation rate is what we're trying to drive," Teller said. In the slogan "reduce, reuse, recycle, reduce," he said, "reduce is the Holy Grail. Recycling is not good enough because it costs a lot of energy and it doesn't all get recycled."

Each household that stops junk mail can save a city $10 in disposal costs annually, Teller said.

Since Santa Monica added a link to the junk mail opt-out service to its website on Feb. 6, 83 of its 89,000 residents have signed up. That may sound insignificant, but "it's about 1,500 pounds of paper that we have saved in just those 83 residents," said Kim Braun, resource recovery and recycling manager for the city of Santa Monica.

RELATED:

New service stops junk mail before it's sent

Time to refuse unwanted, unrecycled phone books?

The Garbage Maven's goal: A kids' party with no trash

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: A U.S. Postal Service truck delivers mail. Four Southern California areas are working with Catalog Choice to cut the junk from residents' mail. Credit: Allen Schaben / Los Angeles Times


The Garbage Maven's goal: A kids' party with no trash

Zero-waste kids' party
I used to be the sort of mom who strung Mylar balloons with ribbon strings for my son's birthday parties. For each of his eight years, I handed out goody bags stuffed with candy and 99 Cents Only Store toys. I bought cakes topped with plastic decorations. I served junk food and Capri Suns. I was oblivious to the mounds of waste I was generating. I just wanted to throw the perfect party.

This year, I decided on something different. For my son's ninth, trash was the enemy. The goal: a party that generates zero garbage. There would be no Slinkies or wax candy mustaches. And Mylar? That was definitely out.

Throwing a zero-waste party was a challenge. I'm not going to lie. Certain items just weren't possible to eliminate, and the party needed to seem just as fun and “normal” as any of the previous birthday blowouts I've thrown. It's one thing to live environmentally conscious myself. It's another thing to ask parents I didn't know well to be part of the experiment, or to include my son, who splits his time between my house and his dad's, where recycling isn't as big a priority.

Continue reading »

Can I recycle fast-food cups?

Cold drinks usually come in two types of cups at fast-food restaurants -- entirely plastic or paper coated with polyethylene. In Los Angeles, only cups that are 100% plastic can be recycled in the blue bin. Plastic-coated paper cups must go in the trash because they're considered a mixed material that can't be separated into component parts.

Because policies and recommendations can vary from city to city, each week we ask a sampling of officials from various municipalities to weigh in. Which types of fast-food drink cups can be recycled in ...

Fast food cupsArcadia: Both

Burbank: Only cups that are entirely plastic

Glendale: Both

Long Beach: Only plastic marked with a recycling number

Los Angeles: Only plastic

Manhattan Beach: Both

Pasadena: Only plastic marked with a recycling number

Riverside: Both

Santa Barbara: Neither

Santa Monica: Both

Torrance: Only plastic marked with a recycling number

Unincorporated L.A.: Only plastic

West Hollywood: Both

 

RELATED:

The archive: Can I Recycle ... ?

What to do with Keurig coffee capsules

The art of recycling rain in your home garden

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Justin Sullian / Getty Images

 


The Keurig question: What to do with those used coffee cartridges? [Updated]

CoffeeIf you received a one-cup coffee maker — or a box of coffee for one — as a Christmas gift, by now you likely have brewed through and tossed out plenty of those little capsules, and perhaps you’ve started to wonder about the environmental impact and the value of convenience.

Turns out that many people have opted for that convenience: In the 12 months ending in November, nearly 46% of the dollars going toward the purchase of coffee or espresso makers went to single-serve machines, according to NPD Group, a market research firm.

Keurig, a major player in the one-cup coffee business, reports that research it commissioned indicated that 13% of all U.S. offices have one of its brewers.

The company confronts the green issue head-on, saying on its website: “As the single-cup coffee market and our Keurig brewing systems grow in popularity, we understand that the impact of the K-Cup portion pack waste stream is one of our most significant environmental challenges.”

The K-cup coffee and tea cartridges are difficult to recycle because they are made of three materials: a plastic cup, which is lined with a heat-sealed paper filter, plus a polyethylene-coated aluminum foil top. Keurig says the packaging keeps coffee fresh, but the cartridges are not biodegradable.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal has reported that 9 billion cartridges have been sold. Keurig said it doesn’t make that information public, but it did say sales of K-Cups more than doubled in 2011 over 2010.

“Finding a more environmentally friendly approach to this packaging challenge is a big priority for us,” Keurig said on its website. “We are working on a few different fronts to improve the environmental characteristics of the K-Cup system.” The company encourages consumers to put used tea and coffee grounds into a composter.

Continue reading »

Can I recycle fireplace ash?

Fireplace ashThe city of Los Angeles discourages the disposal of fireplace ash in the green bin for yard waste. Many residents burn wood that is chemically treated, or they burn commercially produced fire logs that may contain toxic additives and chemicals. The ash from such items contaminates the green waste that the city recycles as compost or mulch.

The L.A. Bureau of Sanitation recommends placing fireplace ash in the black bin but cautions residents to be sure the ash contains no hot embers or other material that isn’t entirely extinguished. Hot ash can melt the plastic trash bins or spark another fire.

An alternative to the black bin: Fireplace ash from untreated wood can be used as a soil amendment in gardens or added to home composters.

Because policies and recommendations can vary from city to city, each week we ask a sampling of officials from various municipalities to weigh in. Can you place fireplace ash in the yard clippings bin in …

Burbank: No
Culver City: No
Glendale: Yes, if completely cooled
Long Beach: No
Manhattan Beach: No
Riverside: No
Santa Barbara: No
Santa Monica: Yes, if completely cooled

— Susan Carpenter

Photo: Thinkstock / Getty Images

GARDEN COVERAGE:

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The Dry Garden: Sustainble landscaping column

The Global Garden: multicultural plantings

A year in L.A.'s community gardens


Can I recycle car seats?

CarseatCar seats can be recycled by Los Angeles residents in their blue bins. Although car seats are constructed from different types of materials, including plastic, metal, foam and fabric, and the city usually does not accept items made of mixed materials, car seats are 90% plastic by weight. That makes them valuable. L.A. sends the car seats to a reprocessor that dismantles them into their component parts and recycles the plastics and metals.

Neither the Salvation Army nor Goodwill accepts car seats. Residents in other cities that do not recycle car seats might want to consider buying one from a manufacturer such as Clek that has a take-back-and-recycle program. Because policies and recommendations can vary from city to city, each week we ask a sampling of officials from various municipalities to weigh in. Can you recycle car seats in:

Culver City: No.
Glendale: Yes, but only through bulk bin pickup.
Long Beach: No.
Los Angeles: Yes.
Manhattan Beach: Only the plastic base.
Riverside: Yes.
Santa Barbara: Yes, if metal or plastic.
Santa Monica: No.


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— Susan Carpenter

Photo credit: Bruno Vincent / Getty Images


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