Statistics show that people who live in Metro Manila generate an average of half a kilo of garbage every day. That’s a lot of garbage. Consider another number: only 10 percent of this total amount is recycled or composted. Now doesn’t that make you think?

It's simple, really. If one of your resolutions for the year is to start living green, the best place to begin is in your own home. Recycling is a simple habit that everyone can adopt. It just takes a little effort to prepare different bins in your kitchen for segregating recyclable materials and actually stick to the practice every time you toss something, but it’s worth the extra trouble, and since the practice is becoming more widespread locally, it’s becoming easier as well. Here are some common items that can be recycled and how to dispose of them properly:

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Batteries. When the car battery’s on the fritz and you’re jonesing for a new one, you can take advantage of the trade-in promos some battery distributors have. If you’re just looking to get rid of the old one, you can drop it off at gas stations participating in the Bantay Baterya project. For your everyday batteries—the type you use in radios or flashlights—make sure you remove them from your gadgets before they start to corrode. To ensure proper disposal (these things can be toxic and can explode) bring them to authorized recycling centers—when looking for recyclers, look for those who specifically accept metal and batteries.

Cell phones. Your old giant mobile phone would be a great paperweight, but you can still give it another lease on life as part of a power tool or a plastic pallet. In 2007, various mobile phone manufacturers and malls participated in the Cell Phone Wastes Collection and Recycling Pilot Project to collect old cellular phones for recycling. More recently, Nokia and the SM Supermalls teamed up with the National Solid Waste Management Commission in a similar initiative You can go to Greenhills, Glorietta, Greenbelt, SM Megamall, and other malls to leave your old chargers, cellular phone batteries and even cell phones in specially marked bins. Recycling mobile phones has a two-pronged purpose: it helps mitigate the hazards of improper disposal since cell phone components can be toxic, and it allows the reuse of more than 90 percent of the phones’ component materials.

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Computers. When disposing of old computers, the first step to try is reuse: if you’re getting rid of your machine because you’ve upgraded to a newer version, you can play fairy godmother and pass on your old one to a friend, relative, or a worthy student—or school—in your neighborhood. If you’re not sure your old computer can still be reused, companies like HMR (634-0526) will take them off your hands for refurbishing and reselling or for their recyclable component parts.

Glass. There's a reason why there's a bottle deposit at the supermarket. When old bottles are collected, the bottling companies can reuse them (after an extremely thorough washing!). Recycling bottles has even been made a lot more fun with the bottle bank arcade. While nobody has tried the same thing locally, the ease of recycling glass bottles—you can sell them to the roving bote / dyaryo guy, bring them back to the supermarket, or bring them to your regular neighborhood waste market—should encourage you to do the same. Remember to take the lids off glass bottles before sending them to the recycling plant.

Ink cartridges. Don't just throw your old ink cartridges away—you can still sell them. Buyers of ink cartridges have signs near printers or photocopiers' stalls, so you can look out for these, though if you’re concerned about them being refilled and resold as fake cartridges, then you might do well to deal directly with a major recycling company like YGARC Trading Co. (825-2077); most of us don’t generate enough used ink cartridges to warrant this, though, so if you only have a few empty cartridges each month, bring them to your monthly waste market and find a vendor who will take them off your hands.

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Paper. Paper is one of the most obvious materials to recycle; neighborhood junk shops and your local roving bote / dyaryo guy will buy it in its easily manageable forms, such as newspapers, magazines, and old phonebooks. Smaller dealers might not take loose papers like parking tickets and envelopes, so you may have to pool these and take them to a recycling fair for disposal. Consider reusing paper as well: old notebooks that don’t have writing on every single page can be repurposed for writing, say, grocery lists, and junk mail printed on standard letter-sized paper can be used as scratch paper for drafts of your printed documents.

Plastic Bottles. PET Bottles such as the ones used for mineral water and soft drinks are melted down and then processed to create other plastic items. Some of the major beverage corporations in the country have even recycled them to create t-shirts, jackets, and bags. Apart from becoming PET bottles again, some go through a process that produces PET flakes, which are then used as raw materials for polyester. Check out Design Boom to see where your soda bottles go in their second or third lives. Some people also use PET bottles for an unusual process called SODIS or Solar Water Disinfection—cleaned PET bottles are filled with water and are left in sun the for at least six hours. The infrared sunlight disinfects the water without the additional use of fossil fuel.

Polystyrene. Commonly known by the brand name Styrofoam, this comes in many forms—the ubiquitous lightweight white blocks you find in packaging, disposable coffee cups, and fastfood takeout containers. The big blocks are often recycled as building material, while the smaller items can be reused as packing material. If you can’t find ways to reuse polystyrene items, prepare them for recycling by cleaning them thoroughly—you can also break them into smaller pieces to make them easier to transport (no matter what you remember from your grade school days, doing so won’t damage the ozone layer)—then hand them off to plastic recyclers who specify that they accept Styrofoam.

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Sando bags. You can always reuse supermarket bags by turning them into trash bin liners for holding your non-recyclable or food waste. Though a number of shops now use “biodegradable” bags, these will still take years to actually decompose, so any extra bags that aren’t used for packing garbage should be recycled with the rest of your plastic materials.

 

Now that you’ve collected and sorted your trash, where do you bring everything?

Neighborhood roving bote / dyaryo guy. Along with that strong-lunged vendor making his rounds selling taho or balut in your village, you’ve most likely also got a neighborhood magbobote–someone who collects old bottles and newspapers for a living and brings them to nearby junk shops. Consider helping these local entrepreneurs since they provide a useful service—and they bring the recycling center right to your doorstep.

Neighborhood junk shops. To find the nearest junk shop, you can ask your local magbobote where he brings his wares, but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t tell you—trade secret, you know. Look around for small junk shops in your area—some of them will even pick your recyclables up at your home. Check out this list of recycling centers and junk shops from Papemelroti if you can’t find anyone locally.

An alternative market day. On certain weekends of the year, you can go to selected Ayala Malls such as Trinoma and Alabang Town Center for the Ayala Recyclables Fair and SM Supermalls such as SM Megamall, SM Mall of Asia, and various other SM branches scattered around the metro for the SM Trash to Cash Recycling Market. At these recycling fairs, you can sell or hand over your recyclables to reliable recycling centers and material recovery facilities. Schedules are likely to change, so the best way to find out when they are is to ask the Concierge at the Ayala Malls and Customer Service at the SM Supermalls.

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Recycling centers. These centers, or material recovery facilities (MRFs), accept your junk, sort through it, and distribute to those equipped to process them. It’s a strange job, but it can be quite lucrative. Find them through this list of recycling centers compiled by a green entrepreneur.

All this is just the tip of the iceberg—we go through a lot of waste each day, and other items can stump you when you’re trying to figure out which bin to put them in. But properly disposing of just these common items is a significant step, and once you get into the habit of segregating your waste and bringing it in for recycling, you’ll be more inclined to choose products and materials that are more responsibly packaged and become more conscious of the stuff you throw away. Try keeping up the habit for the whole year—you’ll be glad you made the effort, and so will Mother Earth.

(Photo source: sxc.hu 1, 2)

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