So you've started recycling -- saving bottles, cans and newspapers. That's great. But what do you do next? Do you know where the recycling centers are in your community?
First, try your phone book. Look in the Yellow Pages index under "Recycling" or "Recycling Centers." If there's nothing listed there, try local environmental organizations. These groups may already have researched the recycling options in your area and know the best ones. (Look in the Yellow Pages under "Environmental Groups.")
You can also try your city or county government. Local governments now get so many inquiries about recycling that many have lists of non-profit organizations and businesses that provide recycling services. City governments almost always sponsor curbside recycling, so they'll also be able to tell you if that's available in your area.
When you do find a recycling center, you'll want to know a few things about it. Here are some questions:
* When are you open? This is a good thing to know if you're dropping off recyclables. Some non-profits have locations open 24 hours a day. Others schedule a recycling day once a week or a few times a month.
* What materials do you accept? All recycling centers are different. Some specialize -- they'll only take the most profitable items, like aluminum cans. Others will take just about everything. If you can find a center that takes a variety of materials, ask for a printed list of what it accepts.
* How do you want the materials sorted or packaged? For example, newspapers can be brought in loose, bagged or tied; which is preferred? Each recycling center has its own way of doing things, depending on what the companies it sells the materials to expect, what equipment it has and how big its staff is. Ask for printed guidelines of the requirements.
* How "clean" do the materials have to be? Should bottles ancans be rinsed out? Is it OK to include aluminum foil with cans? Should labels be removed from bottles? Don't be afraid to ask; it's the best way to avoid wasting time and your recycled materials.
* How much do you pay for each material?
Note: A center that just takes aluminum may pay more because it's not subsidizing any lower-value materials. But consider this: Recycling centers that take a variety of recyclables provide the greatest service to your community.