iRecycle Review: The App Making Recycling More Accessible - Public Goods Blog

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iRecycle Review: The App That Makes Recycling More Accessible

When I was younger, my parents taught me that once medication expires, you either throw it in the trash or flush it down the toilet.

irecycle app homescreen on an iphone

But as an adult, I know the harm pharmaceuticals can cause to the environment when they’re not disposed of properly. So for the past few years, I’ve been looking for a place that accepts old medication.

About a year ago, one of my doctors told me that normally police precincts and pharmacies accept old medication. When I visited the ones in my neighborhood, they told me they don’t accept expired medication and weren’t sure of any facilities that could recycle or dispose of my old pills and epi-pens. I felt discouraged for a while after this encounter, but I decided to do some research when I recently discovered an app called iRecycle.

What is the iRecycle App?

iRecycle, which is owned by Earth911, is a free app that was created to provide people with convenient recycling opportunities. It’s currently only available in the United States and can be downloaded on both Apple and Android devices. The app is easy to install and offers more than 1.6 million ways to recycle approximately 350 materials including hard-to-recycle waste such as batteries, fire extinguishers, fridges, and eyeglasses.

How iRecycle Works

When you download the app, the first thing you’re asked is if they can access your location. By accessing your location, iRecycle is able to provide you with a list of the closest recycling facilities to you. Once you’re in the app, you have the option to add your home and work address, so you can tailor the list of recycling centers to your exact location.

Within the app, there are 14 categories for you to explore. The first category includes the latest articles and this takes you to the Earth911 website. These news stories discuss how to recycle, various ways to improve sustainability, how to implement an eco-friendly lifestyle, and features innovative products and services. Earth911 posts articles regularly, so there is always new content to read and they also feature podcast episodes. There are more than 140 episodes and each one is approximately 15 to 40 minutes long.

menu options in the irecycle app

The next category is automotive and iRecycle gives you a list of materials you can recycle within this group. Antifreeze, bike tires, motor oil, and oil filters are just a few of those materials. To find the exact medium you want to dispose of, you can use the search bar at the top of the page, the alphabet bar on the side of the page, or manually scroll up and down.

You’ll use the same search technique for the other categories, which are batteries, construction, electronics, garden, glass, hazardous, holiday, household, metal, paint, paper, and plastic. Some categories are longer than others, so you can use whichever search method is best for you.

How to Use the iRecycle App

Once you find the material you’re looking for, click on it and you’ll either see a list of recycling centers that accept that object or the following message, “There are no recycling centers that accept this material near you. Check back, we add new locations all the time.” This is what I saw when I browsed through the hazardous category and searched for medication.

I finally thought I found a company that would help me responsibly dispose of my expired medication, but that wasn’t the case. However, I was able to find recycling centers for other items I wasn’t sure how to dispose of such as cooking oil, construction paper, and wrapping paper.

To make the app more efficient for consumers, I think once iRecycle obtains your location, they should filter out any materials that can’t be collected in your neighborhood. Then, they should only add it to the list once there are at least two recycling centers near you that accept the object.

screenshots from the irecycle app

When you do find an item that can be recycled, iRecycle presents you with a diverse list of recycling centers to choose from, and the locations are organized by distance. The closest one to your current location is always first and the one that’s farthest away is at the end of the list. Unfortunately, the recycling centers can be anywhere from one mile to 30 miles away.

Based on how far you’d like to travel, click on the recycling center you’d like to visit. iRecycle will display the establishment’s operating hours, address, phone number, and website. They also give you a list of other materials the location accepts. If you like the recycling center you chose, you can add it to your favorites list or text the link to someone you know.

The recycling centers are a mixture of local and state recycling centers and major corporations such as Walmart, Home Depot, and Best Buy. Depending on where you live, the closest location may be in another county, city, or state and you might have to drive a few minutes or hours away, which isn’t ideal for everyone.

I live in Staten Island, NY, and a majority of the places suggested to me were in New Jersey. Although New Jersey is a 30 minute to two-hour drive from Staten Island, I don’t have a driver’s license, so it would be difficult for me to get to one of those locations without a car.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing the app can do about that because all they’re doing is suggesting recycling centers that are close to your home or job. However, I think it would be extremely helpful if they also included recycling centers that allow you to mail hard-to-recycle materials directly to them or can arrange to pick up the items from your home or workplace.

iRecycle app Review: The Final Verdict

Despite the few criticisms that I have, iRecycle is great for anyone who wants to recycle more responsibly or doesn’t know the basics about recycling. I also think the app is beneficial for anyone looking to live a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle. iRecycle is extremely easy to use and does an amazing job helping you find locations in your area that collect very specific materials. It also indirectly teaches you about the importance of recycling your waste correctly.

Although iRecycle didn’t help me accomplish my goal of finding a place that accepts expired medication, I would definitely use it again. It’s vital we all try to do better, so the environment can continue to thrive.

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