Garage Clean-Up: A Lesson in Recycling

Board of Health member Lawrence Block's essay points to the many ways people can recycle items.


I cleaned out my 2-car garage last weekend.  This once or twice yearly activity was made more onerous by virtue of having my 3 children leave home for marriage or graduate school, abandoning items they no longer wanted.  In previous times, I would have easily had 3 or 4 barrels of stuff to throw away.  But I challenged myself to recycle everything I could.  In the end, a half-filled 15-gallon kitchen trash bag went into the barrel to be disposed of.

Many items were easy to recycle:  the cardboard and paper, plastic bottles and the like.  I filled a large box with metal items to bring to the monthly metal drop off at the DPW, supporting the Jackson Park playground effort.  Metal, hard plastic, and paper (shredding is done at no charge while you watch) is also accepted at North Shore Recycled Fibers at 55 Jefferson Street, Salem (7 a.m. through 3 p.m., Monday through Friday).   I brought them nearly 2 barrels of hard plastic items including waste baskets, totes, plant pots, children's toys, a basement window well cover, and 2 lawn chairs. 

Many Styrofoam items were in the garage to be tossed out, including packaging material and an old cooler.  These were brought for recycling to LIFOAM Industries at #2 5th Street, Peabody (open 6 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday--Friday), at exit 28 off of Route 128.

Hazardous waste items such as oil paint cans, paint thinner, household chemicals and pesticides I put aside to bring to the Marblehead/Swampscott Hazardous Waste Collection, which this fall will be held at the Marblehead DPW site (Tower Way) on Saturday, November 3, from 9 a.m. until noon.

An old wooden stepladder I put out in front of my house with a "free" sign on it; it was gone in less than 24 hours.  The old printer was accepted for recycling by Staples, or could have been kept until the semi-annual Town collection of electronics.  The old rechargeable batteries from my drill set, and the burned out compact fluorescent light bulbs (all mercury products are accepted) were brought to the Health Department at Town Hall.

More difficult was getting rid of the years of high school and college items my kids no longer wanted.  Books were either brought to a book recycling container (several around), or recycled with the paper.  The numerous 3-ring binders turned out to be most challenging, especially since they were too beat up to give away or re-use.  But looking at them, every part is recyclable:  with a utility knife, the front and back covers were separated from the binder.  Using a drill, it was a snap to remove the rivets holding the metal piece with the rings onto the binder; the metal went into my metal box.  Using the same knife, the plastic covering was then removed from the cardboard, and both put into the recycling bins (the plastic covering is acceptable in the co-mingle bin).  Instead of throwing away seven 3-ring binders, 10 minutes of effort allowed 100% of them to be recycled!

It is estimated that more than 75 percent of all household waste is recyclable.  Swampscott residents have done a much better job recycling since the Waste Reduction Program began last year, but there is much more we all can do.  Remember that anything that gets thrown away gets burned at the RESCO plant in Saugus, polluting the air, and the land with the left over toxic ash.  Taking the time and making the effort to recycle everything possible benefits our Town, our environment, and ultimately our health.


Lawrence S. Block, M.D.

Member, Board of Health

Citizen Swamp September 28, 2012 at 11:31 AM
Another lecture from the BOH. CS
Restless September 28, 2012 at 11:47 AM
Thanks Larry. You have inspired me to start to think about maybe tackling my two car garage. Lol. Will make note of the different recycling options available.
Fran marshall September 28, 2012 at 12:06 PM
Thank you sooo much. This was such a complete, information -packed article about how and when and where to bring things that we all have lying around. I really only knew about what could go in the blue bins and have been feeling bad about all the styrofoam, hard plastic ,etc. that goes out in my trash. Nice job!


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