Waste not – my trip to Ecocycle

Last week, I wrote about my bathroom makeover. In addition to creating a nicer looking bathroom, our makeover created a ton of packaging waste.

Fortunately, I managed to get away with actually throwing away just a few twist ties, some strapping bands, and some painting material — tape and the like.

Here’s what the waste looked like in our living room after we finished unpacking:

(Yeah, it kind of looked blurry in real life too.)

The piles included:

  • One huge box entirely filled with block Styrofoam.
  • A great big stack of corrugated cardboard from the boxes themselves.
  • Several sheets of instructions, etc.
  • A variety of small plastic bags that contained screws and other hardware.
  • A large shopping bag full of padded foam wrap.
  • Several linear yards of plastic shrink roll — the stuff that straps two boxes together for shipping.

Here’s what I did with it:

  • The sheets of paper went right into our city recycling bin.
  • The plastic bags and plastic sheeting went into our plastic recycling, which I take over to our local grocery store every week.
  • I spent 15 minutes, one morning with a box cutter, and cut the corrugated cardboard into pieces that fit into our city recycling bin.
  • We delivered the shopping bag full of padded foam wrap to our local pack and ship store for reuse.

That left just the block Styrofoam. In addition to our big box, I had a small bag of block Styrofoam in my office closet. I’ve been saving it from various packages, along with plastic yogurt tubs that are not recyclable in our curbside recycling program.

I decided the time was ripe for a trip to EcoCycle in Boulder. EcoCycle is known as one of the most advanced recycling centers in the United States. In addition to municipal recycling programs in Boulder, they operate a Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHaRM).

That’s the recycling center in the picture at the top. You drive up next to a building, tell them what you have to recycle, and pay any necessary fees. (And only in Boulder is the garbage-station attendant cute, helpful and brainy.) My carload of Styrofoam cost me nothing to recycle. The yogurt tubs go directly into their single-stream recycling program. The only thing I had to pay to recycle was for three bicycle tires that I brought along. Those cost $.50 each, for a grand total of $1.50.

They had an ingenious system for recycling Styrofoam. I had to take my box and bag up the steps of this little platform. Beside the platform, they had strung up some giant plastic bags into which I dumped my Styrofoam.

After that, I drove to the dumpsters along the side and dropped off my materials in the appropriate bins. Then we were free — and is our responsibility and ready to run some other errands while we were in the area.

I wish we had such excellent recycling services in my city. But I am grateful that they at least exist within driving distance. Was it worth it to drive 30 miles to recycle the stuff? Probably, as long as I let it pile up and only go once a year or so. I learned that they also recycle milk and juice cartons and tetra-paks, so I have started a bag in my storage room for those materials.

How about you? How are your recycling services? What do you do when you have difficult-to-recycle materials?


8 thoughts on “Waste not – my trip to Ecocycle

  1. Jade says:

    Just wanted to say what a great blog.

    It’s amazing how much packaging you can accumulate these days. I live in London and my council is pretty behind with it’s recycling initiatives which is such a shame.

    Whether on purpose or by inefficiency they make it really hard for households to recycle (pick up days keep changing, if you live in an apartment and want a recycling box they make you PAY for one etc etc). There isn’t a recycling centre nearby where we can take things either. Hopefully one day our recycling initiatives will catch up with you guys!


  2. erin says:

    It is so funny that you wrote about this now. Ever since attending a “recycling round up” here in Portland, OR in May, I have been saving every scrap of plastic that comes in to our house. I had a vague notion that either there would be another “recycling round up” or I might find a place to bring it. Monday I took a day off from work and one of my tasks was to recycle all the plastic. I took it to a place called Far West Fibers that I heard about from some friends. It was totally self serve. They ask for a $2 donation. I was able to recycle everying except some foam type items – I just had to sort through it all. I am going to take the foam items to a place in town called Scrap. The foam pieces are brightly colored and used to be a box / picture frame but my daughter was a little too hard on it. Scrap takes all sorts of art supplies, books, fabric, etc and sells it for a small fee.

  3. cheaplikeme says:

    @Jade, thank you!

    @Erin, funny … recycling makes me a bit squirrelish … I have the recycling bin outside, and separate bags inside for yogurt tubs, plastic caps, cotton from bottles, and now milk cartons …

  4. Ellen Moeller says:

    Wow we may have passed each other today! I was there with my compost from my daughter’s ( no waste) birthday party! I love Eco Cycle. I live in Superior, just 5 min east of Boulder! How cool! Another eco blogger lives in my general area!!

  5. twofish4 says:

    Great Job, not many recycling centers out here in the Midwest. My trip to the “ecocenter” is alot more of a trip, a lot less fun. 😦

    Love your blog..linked you on my blogroll.

  6. Margaret says:

    We do the same thing, cheap. We save everything up and schedule twice-annual trips to EcoCycle for all of those crazy things we can’t get rid of, like tetra-paks, and take the rest of the day to do things like go to the Boulder Farmer’s Market for planting garlic or what have you. It’s a good use of our time, I think. Thanks for the reminder that I need to go look at our “stash” and see if it’s time.

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