It’s time to become more than just an aspirational recycler! This means finding out if a discarded item is recyclable, or if it’s better off being tossed in the trash. When items that should be sent to the landfill are accidentally recycled, they can wreak havoc on recycling machines. Plastic bags and bubble wrap, for instance, tangle themselves around the turbines of the machines and can shut down an entire processing plant.

Be Aware: Not All Plastics are Created Equal

Plastic Bags

You may be shocked to know that not all plastics are created equal. Materials like plastic bags are commonly tossed in the recycling bin, causing confusion during the sorting process in many recycling facilities. How you ask? Most plastic bags are made of fine materials that cannot be recycled at plants. As they are processed, the bags are sorted to prevent tangling around the machinery.

Plastic Silverware

As for plastic utensils and straws, they often fall through the machines given their smaller size. Workers are then required to clean up the mess. To avoid slowing down the process, it is safer to throw away all products that do not display their recyclability. Sticking to the basics and only recycling items that display the above logo will make you a more responsible recycler.

woman holding paper recyclables near sorted out recycling bins

Plastic Bags

You may be shocked to know that not all plastics are created equal. Materials like plastic bags are commonly tossed in the recycling bin, causing confusion during the sorting process in many recycling facilities. How you ask? Most plastic bags are made of fine materials that cannot be recycled at plants. As they are processed, the bags are sorted to prevent tangling around the machinery.

Plastic Silverware

As for plastic utensils and straws, they often fall through the machines given their smaller size. Workers are then required to clean up the mess. To avoid slowing down the process, it is safer to throw away all products that do not display their recyclability. Sticking to the basics and only recycling items that display the above logo will make you a more responsible recycler.

Learn How To Recycle Electronics

multicolored power cords

Power Cords

Power cords are one of a few of the electronics that are acceptable to recycle; however; they must be sent to the correct facility for proper disposal. If you have old and unusable power chords, the safest way to keep them out of the landfill is to send them to your community’s recycling facility specializing in e-waste materials. With a quick internet search, you can find e-waste facilities nearby.

Batteries

As for batteries, the options are a little broader— thereby making it easier to find a way to keep these single-use products out of the landfill. There are designated locations in your community that accept batteries, which can also be viewed by a quick internet search. As batteries are becoming more commonly recycled, there are companies like Battery Recyclers of America that offer pick-up options.

Large Electronics

Similarly, larger electronics, such as PC’s, laptops, television sets, etc. can be recycled by simply scheduling a pick-up with companies such as Tech Waste Recycling. Looking to save some cash on your next e-waste pick-up? Companies like Tech Waste Recycling will waive the pick-up charges if you provide 10 or more items from their list of approved recycling donations. To view, their list click here.

Know How to Recycle Paper Products

woman cleaning off blue glass plates with paper towls

Be Aware of Contamination

While recycling paper products may seem like a no-brainer, there are a few rules that should be followed. For instance, pizza boxes are not eligible to be recycled as they are usually contaminated with grease. The same concept can be applied to paper towels and napkins, which are often contaminated with food, liquid, and other debris. Even though these products are not recyclable, they are however compostable— permitted they are not contaminated with chemicals (soap and food are just fine).

Try Composting

While your recycling efforts are much appreciated, it is equally important to be mindful of what you place in your green bin. Instead of allowing contaminated products to enter the recycling plant, it is safer to compost them or opt for a more sustainable alternative. Using old rags and torn shirts as your kitchen towels can be a great way to cut your cost on single-use towels and napkins. As for paper plates and cups, you can choose to purchase biodegradable or compostable dinnerware instead.

Recycling Isn’t Always Easy

Here’s where it gets tricky, so pay attention! You may see packaging that says, “sustainable” or “made from 100% recycled materials.” But this doesn’t always mean that it is eligible to be recycled or composted. Some “recyclable” items may contain a plastic lining to ensure durability. Be sure to look for “compostable” options if you must use single-use paper towels or paper plates.

Look for Sustainable Alternatives

Sustainable paper options don’t have to stop at kitchen products, as you can also make the switch to more environmentally-friendly choices in other aspects of your life as well. A great way to eliminate the unnecessary use of paper is to use a paperless notebook. Products such as rocket book is a reusable notebook that eliminates the waste of paper. Using electronics to keep calendar information as well as notes is a great way to go paperless as well. Try out different alternatives and see what works for you. You may find a product you love or might go back to the drawing board for a better alternative. Just remember, at least you’re trying to improve the environment.

Don’t Be Discouraged

Recycling may seem confusing; however, it is crucial to the stability of our economy. If we intend to decrease the volume of single-use plastic entering landfills and polluting our oceans, then we need to increase our global recycling rate. We currently recycle eight percent of our global single-use plastic, which is alarmingly low (Parker, 2018). While this statistic may seem discouraging and bleak, we can change our viewpoint. Let’s focus on the opportunity to begin recycling the other 91% of our single-use plastic products. Remembering the minor recycling rules listed above will increase accuracy, thereby increasing the global recycling percentage.

Do you have any tips and tricks for recycling in your community? Share in the comments below!

References

Parker,  L. (2018). Here’s How Much Plastic Trash is Littering Our Earth. National Geographic. https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/07/plastic-produced-recycling-waste-ocean-trash-debris-environment/