When you put your garbage in the trash can and throw it away, you're really just throwing it "somewhere else." The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, estimates that Americans create approximately 250 million tons of waste every year. That’s an astounding amount of garbage and only 35% of it is recycled.
We've noticed that even when people want to recycle, they're unsure of the basic rules and many times aren't doing it properly. Let's fix that!
Be a master of these 5 recycling basics
Remember, when you put an item in the recycle bin, the goal is to help manufacturers change your waste into a new product. So, here are the 5 recycling basics to help you get your waste properly recycled and not just end up in the landfill.
1. Recycling and plastic bags don't mix.
Plastic bags clog up recycling sorting machines, so keep them out of your recycling stream completely.
Don't put your recyclables in a plastic trash bag; they need to be dumped directly into your recycling bin.
Don’t put plastic bags of any kind (grocery bags, ziplocks, etc) into your recycle bin; they need to be returned to recycling drop-offs dedicated specifically to plastic bags (see Day 26 of our challenge).
2. Only clean, uncoated paper products can be recycled
Printing paper, paper bags, cardboard, newspaper and other clean, uncoated paper products can all be recycled, but soiled and coated paper contaminate the recycling stream.
You can't recycle contaminated items such as dirty paper-napkins, greasy pizza boxes, paper towels, and used paper plates. Even though these are paper products, they've been soiled and can't be recycled. When paper is being recycled, it's mixed with water to create pulp. If this pulp is contaminated with oil or food residue, it ruins the entire mixture and has to be sent to the landfill instead of turned into recycled paper.
Some paper items have a small wax or plastic coating on them and can't be recycled. Examples of these are coffee cups and receipts (check out our blog for Day 25 where we cover BPA coating on receipts and tickets).
3. Look for the recycling sign (chasing arrows) when deciding which plastic items to recycle
If an item has the potential of being recycled, it will have the three-chasing arrows insignia on it.
Crush water bottles as much as you can before recycling. This will prevent the tops from shooting off at high speeds when they're processed.
Plastic forks, spoons, and knifes unfortunately aren't recyclable because they're too small and their plastic type is almost impossible to identify.
Rinse your plastic container out if it needs it. The cleaner your containers, the more they’re worth on the recyclables market.
4. Glass bottles and jars are good, but specialty and broken glass are no good.
Glass is a recycling success story, so recycle as much of it as you can. According to Earth911, glass bottles represent the quickest recycled-packaging process, as a bottle can be recycled and back on store shelves in 30 days. Unlike most materials that lose their quality over time, glass can be recycled infinitely with no loss in purity.
All your glass bottles and jars can be recycled but not specialty glass such as windows, mirrors, Pyrex dishes, and light bulbs. They have different melting points and chemical compounds than your typical household glass containers.
Any type of broken glass shouldn't be recycled because it poses a safety hazard to recycling workers and has little recycling value.
5. Rinse out metal containers but don't worry about the label
Rinse out aluminum and metal containers, but make sure there aren't any liquids left in them. You don’t want them to spill and contaminate the other items, such as paper.
You don't need to remove labels from your containers. The thermal recycling process will burn them off.
Foil potato chip bags and the foil top off your yogurt container cannot be recycled.
Just remember if you have any doubts, check with your municipal recycling center. They're happy to provide you with information to help you become a stellar recycler!
Green recycling bin: Photo by Anna Auza on Unsplash
Recycling symbol: Image by Clker-Free-Clker-Free-Clker-Free-Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay
Recycle These Items: City of Dallas