Recycling Know No’s: Spring Cleaning, the Sustainable Way

March 1, 2023

After spending the winter months largely indoors, many will return to the seasonal rhythm of Spring Cleaning. It’s hard to resist the urge to throw open the windows and clean out the clutter. Use the tips below to green your clean this year. Making some simple swaps and creating intention around getting rid of unwanted items in a responsible way can greatly reduce the amount of material sent for disposal. 

Ditch the Paper Towels. Single-use paper towels and other compostable paper make up nearly six percent of the waste delivered to the Covanta Haverhill incinerator, Bedford’s waste disposal site. Not only wasteful, single-use paper towels are a sneaky expense that really adds up. Consider that a six-pack of paper towels costs $13.50 on average. A family that makes this purchase weekly would save $700/year by switching to a reusable alternative. An old cut-up t-shirt makes a good (free!) wiping rag or try Marley’s Monsters Unpaper Towels, a popular single-use alternative that is machine washable and lasts for years. ($16, per six pack, https://www.unpackedliving.com/products/unpaper%C2%AE-towels-6-pack). If you do use paper towels, remember they should go in the trash after use, never the recycling bin.

Green Your Cleaner. Household cleaners are undergoing a green revolution all their own, but no need to fall for the clever marketing in the cleaning aisle. It is not necessary to have a different cleaner for every cleaning task. Save space in cabinets and improve your indoor air quality by reaching for a natural all-purpose cleaner, instead of one heavy on the chemicals. If you are inclined to DIY a solution, WedMd (https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/ss/slideshow-guide-to-natural-cleaning) offers this healthy alternative using ingredients you probably already have in the pantry. “For mild cleaning, mix 1/2 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup baking soda, and 4 to 8 cups hot water in a spray bottle. You can substitute two teaspoons of Borax for the baking soda. Add a few drops of essential oil to any mixture to give it a fresh scent.” Empty cleaner bottles should get a quick rinse and be placed in the recycling. Throw the trigger sprayer top in the trash. 

Twin the bins. Make it as easy to recycle as it is to throw something in the trash! Consider placing a recycle bin next to the trash can in the kitchen, bathroom, or office. Remember to recycle paper, cardboard, glass bottles and jars, metal food and beverage cans as well as plastic bottles, jars, jugs, and tubs. Disposable plastic gloves, cleaner wipes, and paper towels should go in the trash. Have other recycling questions? Use the new Waste Wizard tool at www.bedfordma.gov/recycling to search more than 700 common household items for guidance on how to properly discard them.

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DPW Waste Wizard on the town website gives options and instructions for disposing of different items. https://www.bedfordma.gov/478/Trash-Recycling

Donate, Don’t Toss. Before you schedule unwanted furniture or household goods for bulky item disposal, consider reselling items or offering them to someone else in need. The list of local businesses and organizations below offers some ideas to get you started. Use the Waste Wizard tool on the Town’s website for even more options. 

     • Furniture: Household Goods, Inc, 530 Main St, Acton. (978)635-1710 www.householdgoods.org Accepts furniture in good condition; dishes, flatware, and kitchen items; sheets, towels, and bed linens. 

     • Building Materials: Habitat for Humanity ReStore, 100 Chelmsford Rd, N. Billerica. (978)215-9975 https://.lowellhabitat.org/restore Accepts working appliances (less than 10 years old); cabinets, countertops; doors, windows, and other building materials, including in small quantities. Curbside pickup available. 

     • Baby Gear: The Wish Project, 166 Middlesex St, N. Chelmsford (866) 947-4360 https://www.thewishproject.org/current-needs/ Accepts car seats, strollers, baby monitors and gently used children’s clothing. View website for other acceptable items. 

     • Books and Toys: Schedule curbside pick up of clothing, books, toys, and small household items with Bedford’s curbside partner, CMRK www.CMRKne.com 

     • Unused Craft Supplies: Make & Mend, 21 Hawkins St, Somerville https://makeandmendshop.com/ Accepts donations of unused craft supplies (including unfinished projects). Items will be repackaged and resold at an affordable price to other crafters. Donations can be dropped off, picked up (within 10 miles of Boston) or even mailed. 

Bedford Compost & Recycling Center at 108 Carlisle Rd. will hold special collection events again this spring. Courtesy photo

Save the Date for Spring Special Recycling events at the Compost & Recycling Center – May 6 and 20. The Bedford Department of Public Works will once again host spring special collection events that provide an opportunity for residents to recycle difficult to manage materials. Returning categories include e-Waste, on-site paper shredding, Styrofoam (EPS #6, solid white packaging bracing only. No peanuts, meat trays, coffee cups, or meal kit insulation), and bulky rigid plastics. More information is available at https://www.bedfordma.gov/809/Special-Collection-Events

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