Most of us live in communities that have an effective and accessible recycling infrastructure in place. In other words, recycling is something that pretty much all of us can do in order to curtail landfill overuse and to protect our planet.
Simply becoming a recycler is not enough, however. What’s crucial is to be a smart recycler. And that means understanding what can and can’t be recycled… and, what preparations you need to make to ensure your recyclables are truly ready to be processed and reused.
If you try to recycle the wrong things, it could contaminate the entire waste management stream. This means more work for our waste collection, recycling management, and landfill workers, but, more urgently, it means less efficiency in the recycling process as a whole.
So, what are some of the most common errors for recyclers to avoid? Here are a few things to look out for.
1) Trying to recycle greasy cardboard.
That grease-stained pizza box sitting on your counter? Don’t just toss it in the recycling bin. By all means recycle any clean parts; for example, the lid maybe grease-free. But the greasy parts can’t be recycled, which means you’ll need to compost them or deposit them in a food waste collection bin that accepts cardboard. If all else fails, it’s better to just toss greasy cardboard in the trash than contaminate the recycling stream.
2) Trying to recycle tissues and paper towels.
While many types of paper can and should be recycled, tissues and paper towels are of such low-grade paper that they cannot be effectively reused. Try composting, putting them in food waste bins that accept paper, or just throwing them in the garbage.
3) Trying to recycle (most) disposable masks.
Post-COVID, many of us still wear masks in certain places, especially if we’re feeling unwell or worried about picking up a virus. Disposable masks sometimes feel like paper, but instead they are made of woven plastic… and thus cannot be tossed in with your other recyclables. Simple test: Try to rip your mask like it’s paper. If it won’t rip, don’t recycle it. Toss it and seek a compostable brand of masks.
4) Trying to recycle bioplastic containers.
If you have plastic containers that claim to be made of plants, that means they need to be composted, not recycled. This can be confusing, as these containers often claim to be recyclable. That’s technically a true claim, but most municipal recycling programs do not have the processes in place to handle the complexities of breaking down bioplastics.
5) Assuming that all “recyclable” items can actually be recycled.
When items are labeled as recyclable, it means they can be recycled somewhere. Often, though, that means specialized recycling facilities or programs, not your local recycling center. Examples of these specialized recycling items include:
6) Assuming that recycling is enough to fix the climate problem.
It’s not. But it is a big part of the solution. And if all of us become smart, faithful recyclers, it will make a huge impact in reversing the current societal trends of using too much and reusing too little.
And by the way, you may have heard the old expression: When in doubt, throw it out. At WasteXperts, we have a different take: When in doubt, we’ll sort it out!
Questions about becoming a better recycler, or about setting up a recycling service at your apartment complex or place or business? We’d love to chat. Reach out to WasteXperts today.