Green Diary: Making You Feel Better About All That Energy Your Gadgets Are Sucking

It’s an interesting dilemma: the readers of this site tend to love their gadgets, but at the same time want to be respectful of the environment.  All of our electronic tools, toys – whatever you want to call them – use resources in their manufacturing, may contain toxic materials that are harmful if not disposed of properly, and require energy to operate.  If you’re like me, you mitigate some of your less environmentally friendly hobbies by making up for them in other ways (I use an electric lawnmower, for crying out loud).

With an eye toward balancing our interest in technology with our interest in the environment, we’re starting a new Gear Diary series focusing on green applications and green technology.  We’re going to call it Green Diary, and you can think of using some of the apps and technology we’re going to feature as a way of making you feel better about all that energy your gadgets are sucking.

This week we’re going to take a look at an iPhone app called iRecycle.

iRecycle, developed by Earth 911, helps you determine where you can take various types of materials for recycling in your community.  It does more than just that, however, as it also offers a listing of green events in your community and articles in environmental issues, much like the Earth 911 website itself.

Opportunities for recycling are a lot more common than they used to be, but the rules aren’t always that clear.  Do you need to separate clear from colored glass?  Where can I take #3 plastics for recycling?  In my case, as I’m in the Chicago area, it’s not too hard to find someplace that will take whatever I need to recycle.  As part of its waste and recycling program, my suburb’s curbside service takes almost every type of plastic, glass, and aluminum.  They don’t take plastic bags, however, and a lot of the stores near me (that provide the bags in the first place) don’t recycle them either.  (Yes, don’t worry, we use our own cloth bags whenever possible.)

Although it provides a calendar of events and news articles also, iRecycle’s main feature is the ability to look up locations in your area that handle different types of recycling needs.  Claiming to include over 110,000 recycling and disposal locations in its directory for more than 240 different types of materials, it’s hard to believe you won’t be able to find a location that can handle your materials.

As I need somewhere to return the plastic bags I’ve been saving, I plugged in my zip code and typed in the material I want to recycle.  iRecycle offers autocomplete options as you type. It quickly located several stores in my suburb that will take plastic bags, one of which I shop at regularly, but I wasn’t aware of their recycling program.  As iRecycle provides the name of the location, its address, and its phone number, I gave them a call.  You can do this directly from the app if you’re using an iPhone.  Turns out they do accept plastic bags.  I tried other locations to check on the iRecycle results and found them to be accurate.

The events tab of iRecycle isn’t as robust as the recycling listings.  Even though I’m in the Chicago area, I only found a handful of events  listed.

The articles are all from Earth 911’s website, which is fine.  The app isn’t intended to be a news aggregator.

Earth 911 partners with major corporations to create the listings database and apparently does consulting for them for environmentally-related press and media outreach.  Describing themselves as “an environmental services company that addresses product end-of-life solutions for businesses and consumers,” no doubt iRecycle is intended to help promote Earth 911’s business, but at the end of the day it provides a pretty easy to use and functional tool.

What I Like:  Great database of recycling locations for more materials than you probably knew existed.

What Needs Improvement:  Well, not much.  The database is the main deal, and it seems pretty robust.  The listing of events, as I mentioned above, seems a little on the thin side, but that’s not the main reason to download the app anyway.

MSRP:  Free in the iTunes app store.

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