I recently had to own up to the fact that the padded base of my Swiffer had deteriorated to the point of uselessness. Though I’ve spent countless hours and gone down many a metaphorical dark alley trying to replace and repair inexpensive household items — including spending several hours attempting to track down a replacement motor for my hairdryer before ultimately crying uncle — even I realized this was a lost cause. And since I could think of no immediate use for a discarded Swiffer, I considered the possibility of recycling it. It appeared to be made of two recyclable materials, aluminum and plastic, so why not?
Here’s the thing, though: the aluminum and plastic parts are welded together, and not at all easy to separate, and I know mixed materials like that are generally a no-no in the recycling world. But am I sure? As with most complex recycling questions, not really.
Figuring out what can and cannot be recycled can be an onerous task. First off, while you might know that your city (in this case, L.A.) recycles five basic categories of material — paper, cartons, metals, glass, and plastics– you might not know what every single thing you’re looking to toss is made from. In addition, each municipality has its own subset of rules, and there is no national, state, or even countywide standard.
I did run across this slideshow from the L.A. Times that might answer some of your more vexing questions and breaks the answers down by municipality. There were a few surprises, like car seats, which, while manufactured from multiple materials (generally a problem for recycling) are accepted by the city of Los Angeles, though not Long Beach, Glendale, or Santa Monica. CDs and DVDs, which L.A. and Glendale accept, are not taken in Manhattan Beach, Burbank or Riverside.
Hope that helps give you a starting point for your recycling questions. If you get really stuck, contact your local municipal recycling program, or post in the comments, and I’ll try to look into it for you.