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Recycling materials used for seed starter

ALABAMA A&M UNIVERSITY, Ala. – The coronavirus has stretched into many aspects of daily life. With a strict enforcement on social distancing in many areas, it has left many people wondering what this distancing means for their daily curbside recycling.

Karnita Garner, an Alabama Extension environmental specialist, said many areas have halted the pickup of recyclables.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the coronavirus can live on plastic and other surfaces for three days,” Garner said. “Because of this, many municipal governments have stopped offering curbside services. They have also restricted the pickup of any loose recyclable materials not placed in plastic bins or bags.”

Can’t Recycle? Reuse Instead

With some recycling avenues momentarily shut down, many people are asking what they should do with the materials they normally recycle. There are many materials that people can reuse for other purposes.

In the Garden

Allyson Shabel, an Alabama Extension urban home grounds, gardens and home pests regional agent, said some items have great uses in the garden.

“Cardboard and paper products, such as newspapers, can be used to control weeds in flower beds and vegetable gardens,” Shabel said. “Put down a few layers of these products and cover them with mulch. The mulch will keep them from blowing away and will look nicer. This will help keep weeds at bay over the spring and summer.”

Plastic bottles with the caps on and packing peanuts are great to add the bottom of large or heavy flowerpots and containers. This makes them easier to move and also gardeners will use less soil. Shabel said only use this method with containers that are at least two feet deep, filling only one third of the depth with the filler material.

Shabel also said people can repurpose clamshell plastic containers, like the ones used for fresh fruits and vegetables, as seed starters and propagation containers for perennials and annuals.

“First, clean them well with soap and water, then fill them with 3 inches of potting mix,” Shabel said. “Put the containers in a sunny window or a shady location outdoors. The closed lid will help hold a little humidity in and keep the cutting hydrated.”

Around the Home

Garner said a lot of the items that are normally recycled could be upcycled and turned into useful or beautiful things.

“Now is a great time to do some arts and crafts with your kids. Some items, such as newspapers and magazines, are perfect for this,” Garner said. “Other items, like glass and plastic containers, can be upcycled and used as organizers for household items or children’s toys.”

Garner said there are many websites and social media pages that have great ideas for reusing recyclable materials.

Ideas for Storage

For the items that people do not reuse, there is still the problem of storing them until recycling pickup starts again. Garner offers the following storage and space-saving tips that can help with this problem.

  • Request additional recycling bins or a larger bin from the city municipality. Contact your local municipality to determine if they have incorporated recycling services into the trash collection service because of COVID-19.
  • Purchase stackable storage bins and collect recyclables in cardboard boxes or plastic storage bins. If cost is not a factor, purchase larger outdoor recycling bins to store in the garage, shed or backyard.
  • Reduce the number of items to recycle during COVID-19. Focus on certain items that have the greatest environmental impact
  • Breakdown cardboard boxes or smash or minimize the size of recyclables like aluminum cans to save space.


For more information on recycling and other topics related to COVID-19, visit the Alabama Extension coronavirus website, www.alabamaready.info.

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