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How should I dispose of my old yogurt containers, tea bags or smartphones?
Discover our tips to help you make the right choice.
Recyclable, compostable or destined for incineration? Sorting common household waste is an essential way to limit its harmful effects on the environment, but it's not always easy to know what to do. Just consider these three examples below...
A tea bag?
Old tea bags usually end up in the trash. This is unfortunate, because they can go into compost bins after removing the tag and staple, as long as the bag is made from a natural material like paper, silk or cotton muslin. In fact, tea leaves contain elements that can accelerate the decomposition process. Some gardeners even recommend burying tea bags directly in the garden: the tannin in tea leaves acts as a natural fertilizer, while their odor can repel pests.
A plastic yogurt container?
Yogurt containers are commonly made of polystyrene, a light and brittle plastic that is difficult to recycle, even though a growing number of processing plants are finding ways to do so. That’s why it's important to check if your country's recycling system collects these types of plastics. If so, the container and lid should be separated (since each material is recycled in a different way) and placed in your recycling bin. If not - which is less and less the case - then both items should be thrown out with your ordinary household waste.
An old smartphone?
Smartphones have a huge carbon footprint and can be tough to recycle since they contain so many different materials, including rare metals in the form of complex alloys and other polluting compounds. For this reason, repair should always be the first option. If this is not possible (or if it costs more to repair than the value of the phone), you should reach out to your service provider, as many companies provide a collection and recycling service (as do certain organizations and specialized stores). They may be able to repair and refurbish your phone. Waste disposal centers, where your phone will be sorted along with other electronic devices, should remain a last resort.