Recycling is a crucial factor in keeping the Earth habitable. What most of us don't understand is that recycling the right items in the appropriate way ensures that the entire system runs effectively. Unfortunately, a lack of knowledge causes people to make mistakes that ultimately make items unrecyclable. These items end up as trash on our streets, buried in landfills, and carried out to sea.
Following are some of the most common recycling mistakes.
Recycling the Wrong Plastic Containers
Whether or not a plastic food container is recyclable depends on the number labels printed on the bottom. It's best to check with your community's local recycling program to find out which varieties of rigid plastic are accepted; Even if the container is recyclable, you'll need to rinse it first, and completely empty beverage containers. Soda bottles that still have liquid inside, and the cap on, are unrecyclable. So, take a minute to empty and rinse approved items before recycling.
Recycling Frozen Food Packaging
The paper board used for frozen food packaging typically has a thin coating on it that prevents freezer burn. This coating is typically made of plastic which means it can't be recycled - it needs to go in the garbage, along with most coffee cups.
Are You Recycling Coffee Cups?
Coffee cups don’t belong in recycling bins because the plastic lining that keeps them from leaking also causes them to be unacceptable for recycling. Lids that aren't black can be recycled, along with the cardboard sleeves used on hot beverage cups.
Recycling Plastic Bags, etc.
Flexible single use plastic products like sandwich bags, grocery bags, bubble wrap and candy wrappers, aren't recyclable. You know those juice packages kids like so much? They're considered a flexible item too, so can't be recycled. Flexible plastic ends up getting caught in the machines used to sort items in recycling facilities. When they get caught, they need to be manually removed to prevent damaging the expensive machinery. This creates a major headache for employees. Some grocery stores have a recycling bin for plastic bags on site, but if not, don't toss them in the garbage. Also, important to note is that you shouldn't put recyclables in a plastic bag before you put them in the bin. If you do the contents could end up not being recycled.
Recycling All Glass Products
Not all glass products can be recycled. Most communities recycle clean, translucent bottles and jars (make sure yours does). Things like Pyrex products, light bulbs, mirrors, window glass, and lab glassware are usually not approved for recycling.
Not Cleaning Cans
Even though cans are recyclable, they need to be cleaned out to avoid contaminating other recyclables. Waste Management facilities have said that the cans don’t need to be spotless, just rinse the majority of the leftover debris out and let dry. Also, you don't need to remove labels. The thermal recycling processes used at the facility typically burn the labels off.
Recycling Greasy Pizza Boxes
Corrugated cardboard pizza boxes are not recyclable because of the grease and food particles that end up soaking into them. What you can do is tear the top off the box because it’s typically untouched.
To make sure you're following the rules, find out what's considered recyclable in your area. You can start by doing a simple Google search like "recycle rules in your city" which should provide results. You can also contact your local waste management facility or City Hall and ask for recycling guidelines for your area.
When recycling mistakes are made, the results threaten the viability of the overall recycling program and have devastating effects on the environment. Something to keep in mind is that there are eco-friendly alternatives for most of the single use, unrecyclable items listed here, including reusable coffee/beverage cups and bottles, fabric grocery bags, etc.