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How much do you really know about recycling?
I thought I knew all I needed to know. I mean, it seems pretty straight forward, right? Just toss all metal, paper, and plastics in the recycle bin and be done with it! WRONG! There’s so much more to recycling than that! On average, about 30% of what gets thrown in the recycling bin doesn’t belong there! Many people don’t know how to properly prep their items for recycling or are “wish-cycling”, which means tossing items in the recycling bin that they hope can be recycled. All of this can lead to contamination of an entire load of recyclables . . . which then has them headed for the landfill instead of the recycling center.
But don’t worry! Recycling isn’t rocket science! It just takes a bit more knowledge and time to do it correctly. With the help of Republic Services Recycling Simplified education campaign, I learned how to sort, prep, and dispose of my recyclables properly. Their website RecyclingSimplified.com offers tips, videos, and resources to help consumers learn proper recycling techniques and help reduce contamination rates. So today, I’m sharing with you what I learned so you too can up your recycling game!
Small materials (like lids and bottle caps) cannot be recycled on their own. They’re so small, they can get stuck in the processing machines. This is also true of small papers, like sticky notes or small receipts. It’s important to make sure that anything that goes in your recycling container is larger than a credit card. So put those lids back on their containers or throw them away. Want to recycle shredded paper? You can! Shredded paper can be recycled as long as it is contained within a recyclable paper bag.
Don’t Mix It Up
When two or more materials are connected, they can’t be recycled that way, even if all parts are actually recyclable. You need to separate the individual parts before putting them in your recycle bin. So peel the labels off of the food cans, remove the metal cap from that glass jar, and separate the bubble wrap from the envelope of that bubble mailer. If the materials can’t be separated, then they should be thrown away.
Keep It Loose
If you’re recycling properly, there’s no need to bag your items together. It’s actually discouraged! Not only does it make it harder (sometimes impossible) to sort your items, but plastic trash bags can get caught in the machines and cause damage! So skip the bagging step and just toss it all right into your recycling bin loosey-goosey.
Not All Plastic Is Created Equal
There’s sturdier plastics, like bottles and jugs, then there’s flexible plastics, like grocery bags, sandwich bags, and bubble wrap. Flexible plastics may seem (or even say) that they’re recyclable, but they all need specific handling that curbside recycling doesn’t offer. In regular recycling centers, they get wrapped up in the machinery and cause problems, so these items need to go into the trash (or in the case of grocery bags, back to the store).
Clean It Up
All recyclables should be Empty. Clean. Dry. It’s important to rinse out your recyclable containers because one dirty bottle can contaminate a whole recycling truck! No one wants that! This is also important for cardboard or paper. If cardboard/paper comes into contact with food or liquid (yes, even water), it can no longer be recycled. So that greasy pizza box? Toss it! Used paper plates? Trash. Dirty napkins? Garbage. An easy way to check this is the smell test. If your recycling smells, it’s probably contaminated and needs to be thrown out.
Spread the Word!
Don’t let the buck stop here! The more people that learn how to recycle the right way, the less recyclable material ends up in a landfill! That’s why I’m teaching my children the correct way to recycle so that the next generation has the knowledge they need to continue the good fight against waste! The Recycling Simplified Education Program has everything teachers and parents need to teach their kids/students about recycling – including lesson plans, activities, and videos. Lessons are tailored to each grade range, helping kids better understand the broader environmental, sustainability, and societal issues related to recycling as well as its role in conserving our natural resources.
Remember, Recycling Is As Easy As 1-2-3!
- Know what to recycle and what to throw out. Stick to the three basic categories (paper/cardboard, metal/aluminum, and plastic bottles/jugs). Unsure about if it’s recyclable or not? When in doubt, throw it out!
- Empty. Clean. Dry. Clean out your recyclables to prevent contaminating the load.
- Keep it loose. Don’t put your recyclables in bags or other containers unless your local program says so.
Want to know more? Head to Recycling Simplified to find expert tips, videos, and articles, all designed to help us get back to basics when it comes to recycling. Because it’s our world and it’s our job to take care of it. Happy sorting!