Consumer Reports: How Recycling Can Save You $250

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Though recycling saves the least money of four recycling strategies we investigated, it generated some of the highest results in our survey. Two-thirds of people said they recycle paper and plastic, and more than half recycle metal and glass—proof that being green isn't just about saving green.

Rewards and penalties initiated

RecycleBank, which is now used by a million people across 20 states, lets you put all of your recyclables in one container instead of separating them by type. Then it weighs the container and issues rewards or points redeemable at local retailers. The average household gets $250 worth. "Pay As You Throw" programs, in 7,100 communities nationwide according to Skumatz Economic Research Associates of Superior, Colo., treat trash like a utility: Homeowners are charged for the garbage they throw out. And if you're not redeeming bottle deposits, you're not alone. Millions of dollars are unclaimed every year.

Nontraditional recycling is low

Our survey revealed less widespread recycling rates for items such as batteries (32%), printer cartridges (30%), small electronics (17%), CFLs (16%) and large electronics (12%). Some of the most common reasons for throwing items away instead of recycling them were that people didn't think the item could be recycled or they didn't have enough information to do so. But just about everything that comes into the home can be recycled. The Web site Earth911.com lists more than 100,000 recycling locations, which can be searched by material and zip code. If you come up empty there, contact your department of solid-waste management.

A large percentage of respondents told us they donated or otherwise gave away certain household items, including furniture (29%), small appliances (28%), and major appliances (21%). If you go that route, first check with the Better Business Bureau (www.give.org) or Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org) to make sure you're giving to a worthy cause.

Easy, low-cost solutions

Start a compost bin for organic food scraps or ask whether the local farmers' market will take them. Trade household items on sites such as freecycle.org. Invest in a reusable water container to cut down on your household's use of plastic water bottles. Take spent CFLs to a Home Depot for recycling.

Total Savings: $250

—Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org or check out Consumer Reports’ Home & Garden advice.

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