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DEAR ABBY: A couple of mothers in my neighborhood and I teach home preschool for our 2- and 3-year-olds. This month we are talking about conservation. Though these children don't understand all about conservation and ecology, they at least understand the concept that each person can and should do his part to keep our world beautiful and safe.

We would like to do our part by separating our trash into containers labeled "paper," "glass," "aluminum" and "everything else." However, I am confused as to what constitutes recyclable paper products.

Would used paper towels be acceptable or not? What about cardboard boxes -- such as cereal boxes, doughnut boxes, etc.?

Please advise me on any steps I need to take before taking things to the recycling plant. Thank you. -- MAREN IN MESA

DEAR MAREN: Check the Yellow Pages of your telephone directory under "Recycling," "Scrap" or "Solid Waste." You might also contact your local solid waste management office, which is usually a part of the Department of Public Works. Someone there can help you identify local recycling groups, other area schools and groups with recycling programs, local environmental groups, and companies that accept recyclables and process or sell them to reclaimers.

This research will help you find out which materials are being recycled presently in your area, as well as those recycling handlers and processors who could accept the materials you collect.

For further information on recycling, contact the Council for Solid Waste Solutions, 1275 K St. N.W., Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20005.

Teachers or school administrators who wish to order a free copy of the Council for Solid Waste Solutions manual, "How to Set Up a School Recycling Program," or the "Resource Revolution" video, should call 1-(800)-243-5790.

DEAR ABBY: I used to think mother-in-law jokes were funny. Not any more. I realize that there must be some good mothers-in-law, but I wasn't lucky enough to get one.

My husband's mother refuses to accept that she cannot run my life, and my husband refuses to tell her to quit trying. He says if I have any complaints about his mother, I should tell her -- not him.

He spends a lot of time with his parents, and he does whatever his mother tells him to do. How can I handle this without causing a lot of problems? -- MAD IN MADISON

DEAR MAD: Take your husband's advice. If your mother-in-law tries to tell you what to do, tell her, woman-to-woman, that you are quite capable of making your own decisions. When you involve your husband, you are asking him to fight your battles in opposition to his mother. Not a very good idea. You need a course in assertiveness. (Yes, such courses are available. Check with your local college.)

Another suggestion to improve your marriage: See your clergyperson or a marriage counselor. If your husband refuses to join you for counseling, go alone.

Want your phone to ring? Get Abby's booklet, "How to Be Popular" -- for people of all ages. To order, send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. (Postage is included.

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