Q: My bathroom sink is clogged. Is there an eco version of Draino?
A: Stuck with a little lagoon full of hair and debris that just won't drain properly? It's enough to make any eco head entertain the idea of pouring, gasp, a toxic clog-clearing product down the sink. But wait - before you turn to acids and industrial lye that can seriously harm your health, the wastewater stream and PVC pipes, there are alternatives.
For less serious jams, it's always worth trying the old baking-soda-and-vinegar combo. Pour some baking soda and a cup of vinegar into the drain, wait 15 minutes while it fizzles and pops, then pour in a kettle of boiling water. Do this several times.
For tougher situations, try a cup of washing soda followed by three cups of boiling water. Again, repeat until you break on through to the other side. Just don't overdo it if you have PVC pipes, and don't use washing soda if you've recently tried conventional acid-based drain cleaners.
All-natural enzyme- and bacteria-based cleaners, like Citradrain (available at Noah's on Bloor, Grassroots on Danforth and Bloor, as well as the Big Carrot on Danforth from $7.79), eat away at hardcore clogs. Let it sit for several hours, then flush with water.
Simple plungers (10 to 50 strokes) and plumbers' snakes can also work well. One-Second Plumber (starting at $19.99 at Canadian Tire) uses air pressure to drive clogs through the line. Each canister works 24 times (refill them from $9.99). Good for sinks and toilets.
Another good chem-free option is Drain King. It attaches to your garden hose and creates a hardcore water flush (from $34.95 at Hudson Plumbing, on Mount Pleasant).
To avoid future sink jams, get yourself a metal strainer that fits over your drain ($4 at Canadian Tire) and do monthly baking soda sessions.
Q: I want to recycle my used Brita water filters. Where can I bring them?
A: Open up many a fridge in the city and you're likely to see a Brita purifying device. Once upon a time you could bring your old filters to the city's Enviro Days or to stores like Grassroots for recycling, but sadly, Brita's parent company, Clorox, cancelled its recycling program. All filters are now destined for landfill. Best bet? Call Clorox and ask them to reinstate the program.
Q: Is there a place in Toronto to recycle the harder plastics (4, 5, 6)?
A: We all know that Toronto blue boxes only accept plastics labelled 1 and 2. That leaves a whole heap (over 33,000 tonnes back in 2000 to be exact) that wind up in landfill hell. But that needn't be. Turns out your other plastic products can find a place in recycling heaven. The city of Toronto actually takes plastic bags (#4) as well as food tubs and lids (#2 or #5) at its Environment Days (see www.city.toronto.on.ca/environment_days/).
Many of you may be wondering, "But I thought they already took those #2 food tubs." Sorry, if you've been putting them in your blue box, they've actually been ending up in the trash. The good news is that the city is considering adding the plastic to its list of acceptable items, and if all goes well you'll be able to toss your margarine containers into your blue bin and trust that they'll end up getting recycled. You could see a change by early 2005.
As for #6, including plastic takeout containers, cutlery, plates, cups and styrofoam, you can schlep these to your neighbourhood Enviro Day or bring them any time to city depots on Bermondsey Road or Ingram Drive.
And before you ask about #3s, those nasty PVCs - sorry, kids, there's no place for them to go but landfill hell.
Q: Is there any way to recycle used CDs and DVDs?
A: If you think someone else might put your Wham collection to better use, why not give it, along with all your unwanted CDs and DVDs, a second life by dropping it off at Goodwill or Value Village? Used CD shops like CD Replay on Bloor or Yonge will buy your old CDs or DVDs. But if no one wants them because they're scratched or full of unwanted data, you can send old CDs, DVDs, jewel cases, as well as cassette and VHS tapes to U.S.-based Plastic Recycling (call 317-780-6100). The ground-up plastics are then shipped off for reincarnation as car parts.
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