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One-Off Recycling Programs Create Hassle

The recent spate of new recycling programs that target only certain items is beginning to seem a little silly.

Whole Foods (WFMI) has launched a pilot program that collects No. 5 plastic, containers marked with "5" inside the recycling symbol. Ikea and Home Depot (HD - Get Report) now take customers' compact fluorescent bulbs for recycling.

These corporate green efforts seem helpful and nice in their own right, but taken as a whole they don't add up to an efficient way to recycle things we use in our everyday lives. The stack of theoretical recycling bins and bags I would have to have in my kitchen to take advantage of all of these programs would be absurd.

I already have two bins for New York City's curbside recycling, one for paper and cardboard and another for glass, plastic, aluminum and cardboard juice containers. When it comes to plastic and glass, the city only takes bottles and cans. Light bulbs and mirrors are off-limits, as are plastic caps and tubs, like yogurt cups and take-out containers.

Whole Foods takes many of the caps and tubs the city rejects. The so-called Gimme 5 effort is a partnership with Organic Valley and Stonyfield Farm, which make products that use these types of containers. I could add a third bin for these containers -- it would fill up fast.

While Ikea and Home Depot will recycle compact fluorescent light bulbs, I rarely pass them in my day-to-day travels. The last time I went to Ikea, I left my old lightbulbs on the kitchen counter, forgotten in the flurry of last-minute measurements and toddler chasing. They're still sitting there two weeks later.

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