This week on Bay Disposal’s blog we’re looking at commonly-used disposable items, the ways they can be reused or recycled, and the alternative products with which you can replace them. Convenience has a price, and it’s not financial. The cheap, easy route is often the disposable one, and our planet ends up paying for it. Together we can change that.

Let’s Reuse!

Lots of plastic items are reusable, but more of them are intended to as single-use throw-aways. Always avoid disposable waste, but if you happen to find yourself in possession of some, know that there are ways to reuse, and ultimately recycle, many of them.

  • Cups: Rinse and reuse until they start to crack, then recycle.
  • Cutlery: Rinse and reuse for up to a week (take them to work with a packed lunch), then recycle.
  • Straws: Rinse and reuse if you like, but better still, ask for “no straw, please.” Metal or paper straws are available for purchase if you really prefer to use them. Plastic straws are not always accepted at recycling facilities so either don’t use, or reuse.
  • Water bottles: Store-bought, single-use water bottles (like Aquafina) are recyclable, but it’s not advisable to reuse them more than a handful of times, as chemicals will begin to bleed into your beverage. Pick up a reusable thermos-style bottle or mug to carry with you and refill whenever you have the opportunity.

Paper is highly recyclable, yet there are so many paper products that we use once then toss. While we should all be recycling old notes, paper packaging, and cardboard, there are lots of paper products that most people never consider reusing or replacing.

  • Paper Towels: It seems impossible, doesn’t? We use paper towels all day, every day, and oftentimes can’t recycle them because of the mess they’ve absorbed. Imagine if you could reuse a paper towel … then it would just be a towel. Use old washcloths to clean up household messes and purchase one set of cloth napkins (dark to hide stains). You’ll sacrifice the convenience but save money (and the world). Worth it.
  • Paper Plates: We know, we know; the convenience. But you’ll save money by investing in one set of glass dishes and it’s really not so bad washing them, we promise.
  • Facial Tissues: In the old days, tissues were made of cloth and called handkerchiefs. While not common practice in this throw-away culture, there’s no reason not to carry one around. Toss it in the wash when you do laundry, and who knows—maybe you’ll even start a trend (fanny packs are back so anything is possible).
  • To-Go Cups: Paper to-go cups with plastic lids are 100% recyclable, but when you’re on the go you may not have access to the correct receptacles. Solve the dilemma by picking up a reusable thermos for when you’re out and get thirsty.
  • Coffee Filters: Ruined after a single use, paper coffee filters are (sometimes) compostable but not usually recyclable. Save space on your shopping list and pick up a reusable filter that fits your coffee maker. You’ll never run out of filters again.

Miscellaneous Replacement Products

  • Cotton balls: Cut or tear an old fleece garment into small pieces
  • Diapers & Baby wipes: Reusable cloth versions are available; some companies will even do the dirty work 
  • To Go Boxes: Carry some Tupperware in your car or purse to avoid toxic Styrofoam containers
  • Soap bottles: Refill rather than replace
  • Printer ink: Refill the cartridges
  • Office Supplies: Most plastic pens and mechanical pencils are not recyclable. Switch to simple wooden #2s for a reduced eco-impact, or check out for other alternatives.