What Happens When “Tanglers” Get in the Recycling (Video)

What happens when “tanglers” get into the recycling? They bring equipment at the recycling facility to a full stop.

“Tanglers” are long or stretchy items, including plastic bags, clothing & textiles, bedding, bungee cords, garden hoses, electrical cords & cables, and Christmas lights.

Watch this video to see what happens when everything gets “Tangled Up.”

Give Your Garbage Collector a Brake

In the U.S., we toss out more than 250 million tons of garbage every year. Unfortunately, once all that trash is tossed to the curb, it’s a dangerous job to pick it up.

Collecting garbage is one of the top five most dangerous jobs in America. The fatal injury rate is higher than it is for police officers, firefighters, construction workers and miners.

So what can we do to help keep our garbage collectors safe? Drive safely! Being struck by a motorist is a leading cause of death for garbage truck drivers. Luckily, with proper awareness, it’s completely preventable.

First, slow down when approaching collection trucks. Stop if necessary to allow them to do their job. Not only are garbage collectors trying to focus on doing their job, they are also dealing with limited visibility, loud noises, and — compared to the average vehicle — relatively complicated machinery.

Second, give trucks and workers plenty of space. If you pass a truck, check for workers on the ground first. Then check for traffic coming from the opposite direction. If it’s all clear, move over in the road to create a safe distance between you and the truck. Don’t try to pass a garbage truck if there isn’t room, if there is oncoming traffic, or if the visibility is poor.

Third, stay alert while passing a collection truck. Don’t accelerate while passing, and avoid distractions such as texting, using a GPS or radio until you have safely made it around the truck.

Follow these steps and you’ll make your neighborhood garbage collector’s job a whole lot safer.

How to Do Takeout the Eco-Friendly Way

takeout food in single-use container

Do you love going to restaurants but hate all the waste created by takeout meals? Make it your New Year’s resolution to try some new local dishes without filling up your garbage. Here’s how:

Bring Your Own Container (BYOC)

Headed to the restaurant down the street? Before you go, check your cabinet for a clean reusable container, preferably with a lid, to take with you. Getting a drink? Bring a thermos or bottle. Restaurants around the country are starting to encourage BYOC and California just signed into law a bill, AB 619, which makes it official: As of January 2020, restaurants are legally allowed to serve food and beverages in consumer-provided reusable containers. Keep an eye out for restaurants that start to offer a discount for bringing your own container.

Bring Your Own Utensils

Eating on the run? Skip the plastic or compostable utensils and bring your own instead. That fork or spoon that doesn’t quite match any of the others in your silverware set is the perfect candidate for your zero waste take-out kit. Keep forgetting your utensils at home? Consider keeping a set in your purse, backpack or car.

Just Say “No Thanks”

When you’re ordering takeout, think ahead about the items you need and don’t need. Ordering food to take home? Skip the utensils, napkins and condiments — you probably have them at home in your kitchen. Now that you’ve cut out all the stuff you don’t need, you might even be able to skip the plastic bag you previously needed to get it all home.

Dine in

Here’s an easy one. Try eating at the restaurant instead of getting your food to-go. In general, restaurants tend to use fewer single-use products for customers dining in. Look for restaurants using reusable plates, silverware and glasses instead of disposables. And don’t forget to bring your own to-go container for the leftovers.

When you do go get takeout food, no matter how much or little waste you prevent in the process, make sure you dispose of everything correctly by looking it up in our Recycling Guide.

New Phone? Don’t Bury the Old One in a Junk Drawer — Here’s Why

Getting a new phone over the holidays? Remember to recycle your old one! It’s easy — in California, stores that sell cell phones are required to take them back for recycling. Oftentimes they’ll even give you credit towards a new device.

If you’re keeping old phones and tablets in a “junk drawer of sadness,” get those precious metals back into action! Phones contain gold, silver, copper, platinum and palladium — valuable materials that manufacturers want to reuse.

While it’s great to give your old phone a new life, never put one in your garbage or curbside recycling. Why? The lithium ion batteries can cause terrible fires in waste trucks and sorting facilities.

Find ways to recycle, donate or sell your old phone in our Recycling Guide. Find out more about why they’re so important to recycle by watching this video.

San Luis Obispo County Christmas Tree Collection

christmas tree

In San Luis Obispo County, your residential garbage and recycling service provider will accept Christmas trees for recycling after December 25.

Trees must be cut into 4 foot or shorter lengths, with no tree parts greater than 6 inches in diameter. Tinsel and ribbons, stands and all other decorations must be removed. Flocked trees are not accepted. Place tree parts in your Green Waste Bin.

Chicago Grade Landfill, Cold Canyon Landfill, Santa Maria Transfer Station and Paso Robles Landfill also accept Christmas trees for recycling. Fees apply.

Pizza Box Cheat Sheet: A Visual Guide to What You Can and Can’t Recycle

pizza box

You may have heard that if it’s cardboard, it’s always recyclable. Or maybe you’ve heard that pizza boxes just need to be tossed in the trash. What’s the real answer? Well, it turns out that pizza boxes are a little complicated. Use our cheat sheet to find out what to toss and what you can recycle.


Leftover Pizza or Crumbs

Leftover pizza needs to go in your Green Waste container. The crumbs do, too! Food — even at crumb level — can ruin batches of paper recycling. Can you imagine little bits of pizza crust living in your roll of paper towels? Ew — no. Make sure they end up in the compost.


Paper Liner & Napkins

Whereas cardboard is sometimes recyclable, the parchment paper liner and napkins are never recyclable. Why is that? Their paper fibers are too short to be turned into anything new.

These guys spell trouble if they accidentally get in your recycling because they’re excellent at soaking up grease. Any amount of grease can ruin a batch of paper recycling by damaging the paper fibers. So make sure all of these grease-soaked paper products get tossed in the trash.


Pizza Savers

You know the little plastic item that appears in takeout and delivery pizza boxes? This little contraption, which looks like a three-legged table, is called a pizza saver. Pizza savers are responsible for your pizza making it home safe and sound, without the melted cheese sticking to the lid of the pizza box. Without them, we’d all be eating ugly pizzas stripped of their cheese and other delicious toppings.

That said, be sure to thank your pizza savers properly and then toss them in the trash. They are too small to be recycled.


A Greasy Box

If grease from the pizza seeps into the box, the cardboard becomes what we call contaminated. Basically, the paper fibers are damaged by the grease and they won’t survive the recycling process. What’s worse, greasy fibers can ruin an entire batch of paper recycling, so they need to be tossed in the trash.

With a greasy box like this, always toss it — at least the bottom half.


A Clean Box — Or a Clean Lid

If the top half of your pizza box has survived its pizza journey in pristine condition, you can cut or tear it off and recycle it.

If by some small miracle the entire box has pulled through with hardly any sign of grease, make sure it’s completely empty, then recycle it.

How to Dispose of Amazon Packaging

amazon packaging

With the holidays around the corner, package deliveries are ramping up around the country. According to one set of numbers, during last year’s holiday rush, deliveries in the U.S. nearly doubled from an average of 45 million to 95 million packages per day.

Even without the holiday surge, online shopping generates massive amounts of packaging waste. It isn’t just cardboard anymore — over the past couple of years, Amazon has increased its reliance on lightweight plastic mailers. About half of all e-commerce transactions take place through Amazon, so how Amazon chooses to ship its products has a big impact on what ends up in our landfills.

The new plastic mailers take up less space than bulky boxes, which allows Amazon to pack more of them into delivery trucks and planes. However, plastic mailers can’t be recycled as easily as cardboard. Like plastic bags, the plastic mailers tangle up sorting machinery at recycling facilities, causing expensive delays.

How can you recycle Amazon mailers?

If the mailer is plastic on the outside with a layer bubble wrap on the inside, or if it is flexible plastic (like a plastic bag) with no layer of bubble wrap: Bring it to a plastic bag drop-off. Just remove the paper label first, since the paper and adhesive can contaminate the plastic film recycling. If you aren’t going to take it to a drop-off, toss it in the garbage.

If the mailer is paper on the outside with bubble wrap on the inside: Because it’s made of mixed materials, it can’t be recycled at all. Reuse it or toss it in the garbage.

How does plastic bag recycling drop-off work?

Certain big box stores and supermarkets put out bins for plastic bag collection near the front of their stores. Once collected, all of the plastic film is melted down and turned into materials such as composite lumber, which is used to make decks, playgrounds and park benches.

Ready to recycle those plastic mailers? Find your closest drop-off location.

How to Fix Christmas Lights

christmas lights

It’s the moment of truth every Christmas tree decorator has to face each year: When you unpack your Christmas lights, will they turn on?

If half your string of Christmas lights won’t light up, or worse yet — the entire string — don’t worry. Repairing Christmas lights is actually super easy! Watch these videos to find out how, no matter what type of lights you’re working with.

Remember: Always unplug your string lights before you start working on them! And if your string lights aren’t salvageable, here’s how to get rid of them.

How to Replace a Fuse on Any String Light (And Avoid Blowing More Fuses)

If your entire set of lights won’t turn on, or the string turns on briefly before going out, it’s likely you’ve blown a fuse. This is a super easy fix!

How to Repair Incandescent String Lights

A simple non-contact voltage tester will help you quickly find a bad bulb.

How to Repair LED String Lights With Removable Bulbs (No Fancy Tools Required)

If individual bulbs on your LED string are removable, you can use a pair of pliers to check the bulbs by hand. Because LED string lights have a different type of wiring, a regular voltage tester won’t work on them, but it doesn’t matter — broken bulbs are easy to identify when once you’ve pulled them out.

How to Repair LED String Lights With Permanent Bulbs (And a Faster Method for LED Strings With Removable Bulbs)

If you want a tool to quickly find where the current is failing, the only option currently on the market is a tool called the LED Keeper. The LED Keeper is a good tool for you if:

  • You have a lot of LED string lights to repair;
  • Your LED string lights have 100+ lights in them; or
  • The bulbs in your LED string lights are not removable.

The LED Keeper gives you a way to find and bypass any broken bulbs in your LED string.

Are You Wishcycling?

While recycling may be the right thing to do, recycling the wrong things is not.

“Aspirational recycling” or “wishcycling” is the act of tossing things in the recycling that you hope are recyclable. Not only is this common, it’s a big problem! Even small amounts of contamination can turn entire loads of recyclable materials into trash.

Check out this video to learn more, and when in doubt, throw it out! Or look it up in our Recycling Guide.

10 Ways to Cut Pounds — of Waste! — This Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-pie

Thanksgiving is around the corner, and we all know how labor-intensive preparing the big meal can be. But we’re not always aware of how much extra waste we create!

On average, household waste increases by 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, according to the EPA. We become so busy during the holidays, it can easily become a time to think less and waste more.

This Thanksgiving, try out these tips to keep some of those extra pounds of waste out of the landfill.

1. Remember to bring your reusable bags when grocery shopping, including reusable produce bags.

2. Choose products that have minimal packaging, or packaging that can be recycled. It’s easier to avoid waste by shopping from fresh produce sections, bulk bins and farmer’s markets. Also, food cans are more eco-friendly than plastic packaging, but they aren’t as green as fresh produce brought home in a reusable produce bag.

3. At home, skip the aluminum pan and use a roasting pan instead. Even though aluminum trays are recyclable, recycling requires a lot of resources, so a reusable pan is a greener choice.

4. Break out your reusable dishes and silverware for the holiday instead of using disposable plates.

5. Use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins — you’ll add elegance and reduce waste at the same time.

6. When serving beverages, opt for tap water over bottled water — you can add some lemon or cucumber slices to jazz it up. You can also make holiday beverages like apple cider, spiced wine or sangria in bulk, instead of serving individual beverage containers.

7. Avoid plastic wrap when storing leftovers by using food storage containers instead.

8. Use natural objects such as gourds, cinnamon sticks, acorns and pinecones to brighten your space instead of shopping for store-bought decor. If you’re feeling crafty, here are some additional ideas from Pinterest:

9. If you end up with leftovers that didn’t go home with guests and you couldn’t finish in time, remember to put them in the Green Waste Bin.

10. Remember to recycle! If you’re not sure if something belongs in your recycling, just look it up in our Recycling Guide!

As important as it is to reduce waste and recycle, no matter how you choose to celebrate, remember to be thankful for who you’re with and all that you have.

Happy Thanksgiving!