Do you ever feel confused about what you can recycle? Or wonder if your recycling actually gets recycled? (Yes it does.) You can find out if something is recyclable or not on the Waste Wizard, and read on to make sure that you are recycling right!
We get it, recycling can be confusing. Although we all make mistakes sometimes, recycling only items that are actually recyclable saves time and money, and ensures that your recyclables go on to have a new life as a new product! Here are 5 tips to make sure you are recycling right:
- Keep paper and cardboard clean and dry, flatten all boxes.
- Containers should be free of food and liquid, but there is no need to get out the dishsoap and scrubbies. A quick rinse is usually all that is needed. Peanut butter jars and other icky stuff? A spatula is your friend!
- Labels do not need to be removed. Save your time for finding more things to recycle!
- Lids should be on bottles and jugs, but if you don’t have the lid, recycle the container anyway.
- Check the Recycling Guide. Chances are if you can’t find an example that closely matches what is shown on the guide, it’s not recyclable. Still not sure? Ask the Waste Wizard.
Why can’t I recycle that?
There are many things that can be recycled, and some that just can’t. The difference between what can be recycled and what can’t is most often determined by whether or not there is a market to sell the recycled material to. Styrofoam? Although there is technically a process to recycle this problem material, there isn’t enough volume or a place to send it to to be recycled. We know you want to recycle all you can, let’s just make sure it’s the good stuff! Staff at the Recycling Center remove all contaminants by hand, so do your part to help them out. Read on for our top contaminants and why it isn’t something you should put in your recycling bin.
Bagged recycling is our top contaminant. While it may seem to make sense to contain your recycling in a bag, we really want you to keep it loose! All of the bagged recycling that comes to the Recycling Center has to be ripped open by hand, taking up valuable staff time. Also, staff can’t see if there is something potentially dangerous in the bag, so they sometimes get splashed or sprayed with some nasty stuff. Rotten milk, anyone? Bags get caught on equipment, take up extra space in the recycling bins, make more waste, and cost YOU money! So save those dollars, make less waste, and help our recycling workers!
Plastic Bags and Plastic Wrap
Just like Styrofoam, many plastic bags and plastic wrap packaging are marked with a recycling symbol and number. These items get wrapped around equipment, and get dirty, and are thrown away. Most recycling programs do not accept them, but some retail locations do. If you want to recycle plastic bags from a grocery store, use retail drop off locations at local supermarkets.
Yes, Styrofoam™ has a recycling symbol. It’s a #6, or polystyrene. The material is technically recyclable, but there is not a system in place to actually recover large quantities of it. It is also incredibly light, blows around easily, and is often soiled with food or liquid. Your best bet? Avoid it. Next best? Put it in the garbage where it belongs.
Paper Plates, Soiled Paper
Although lots of different kinds of paper ARE recyclable, soiled paper and paper coated with wax or plastic are not. Recycling Center staff see lots of paper plates and other soiled paper products (such as paper towels and napkins) in the recycling, and all of those items are pulled out by hand and placed in the garbage.
Wrapping Paper and Photos
Wrapping paper or really embellished greeting cards aren’t recyclable. Wrapping paper often contains embellishments such as glitter, foil, or other additives that make it difficult to recycle. Many cards are embossed with foil or glitter, or even contain batteries! Simple cards can be recycled, cards with additional decorative elements are not. We all get photo greeting cards from relatives around the holidays, but sadly these are not recyclable either. Photo paper often has additives or coatings that can’t go through the recycling process. E-cards or a simple holiday email with family photos are two great ways to reduce holiday waste.
While clothing can be recycled, it’s not accepted in your recycling bin! Usable clothing and accessories should be sold, donated, or passed on to family and friends, and even stained or worn out clothing can be recycled into a variety of products. Bring ALL textiles to drop off donation bins and resale locations for proper disposal. Buying higher quality clothing will also ensure that it lasts longer and has a better chance of being reused by someone else.
Bulky items like large flower pots, pieces of wood, plastic chairs, vinyl siding and large storage totes should not be put with recycling. These items are too large to be included in our bales of recycled materials, and are all pulled out of the recycling by staff at the Recycling Center. Please donate usable items, and bring items too large for your garbage collection to a transfer station for disposal.
During gardening season we see lots of plant pots! Plastic plant pots #1-7 that are NOT black can be put with recycling, black plant pots or very large plant pots are not acceptable in our recycling program. Plant pots and planters should be reused as many times as possible, and can sometimes be returned to a retail location or plant nursery for reuse or recycling. Check with your local nursery or garden center to see if they accept used pots.