Many people do not realize that a large amount of what they are recycling is going to the landfill. This is not because recycling companies are corrupt; it is simply because people don’t follow the rules.
When it comes to recycling, you have to play by the recycling companies rules if you want to make an impact on our planet. I hear far to often from people “I was not sure if it could be recycled or not, so I just threw it in!” I cringe on the inside every time these words are spoken, because those items are doomed for an eternity in America’s wasteland.
You have to think of the recycling companies as a middleman, or a broker of trash. They have to take these items and sell them to companies who will in turn create new goodies out of said trash. The recycling companies are not the ones recycling the trash; they are just the sorters and sellers.Understanding this point alone will help you be a far better recycler. Lets take it a couple of steps further.
There are two main reason why what you recycle might end up in the trash:
1.Cleanliness. If your items have not been rinsed out or still have food remnants, they will likely be thrown away. In fact, contamination in the recycling business is a big problem. Some estimates put the costs of irresponsible contamination in the neighborhood of $700 million per year industry-wide. You can actually save the city and your recyclers money by cleaning your goods. They do not need to be squeaky clean, but they should be free of globs and such. Recycling companies oftentimes will get paid more for items that are clean!
Clean items are particularly important for paper and cardboard. Pizza boxes are one of the major culprits. If the cheese and grease are still on the box, it can mess up the entire recycling process. Oil and water do not mix, and recycling paper and cardboard is often a water-based operation. The oil on the items can jam systems or ruin entire batches of recycled paper, costing companies a lot of money.
Wasting water is a common worry for recyclers and rightfully so. You can use the same water to clean all of your recyclables to save water. And remember: they to do need to be clean enough to eat out of.Fill your sink with warm soapy water and wash recyclables like you would wash dishes… even better, no need to rinse.
2. Wrong Items. After reading this article, you should revisit your curbside rules and what your company accepts and, more importantly, what they don’t accept. The days of sneaking items in your bin are over!! If you are not sure about an item, hold onto it and call the company to find out. Never assume or just cross your fingers and hope it will be recycled — take the time to research.
The most common mistakes people make with recyclables involves plastic. Plastic is sorted based on number, and many plastic containers will be made up of several numbers. A juice container, for example, with have a body that is a number 1 and a cap that is likely a number 5 (but oftentimes will be unnumbered), and maybe a label that is a different number. In some areas, not all plastic 1-7 are accepted. If you include items outside of what is allowed, those items are going in the trash and all the time you spent cleaning them is wasted. It is a lose/lose for everyone.
As a general rule, unnumbered plastics cannot be recycled curbside, so anything without a number needs to be put aside. However, these items can be recycled!
Once you have mastered your curbside recycling, it is time to start recycling outside of the box — or bin, rather. Many local businesses and online organizations have drop offs for random items and many items can be mailed in for a small fee or even free of charge. A good source for locating out of the box recycling centers is earth911.com.
Whatever you do, do not get overwhelmed. Simply commit today that you are going to get informed, follow the rules and be a recycling superstar!