When In Doubt, Throw It Out! 5 Tips to Recycle Right

We need to Recycle Right!

You may be wishcycling if you have been throwing questionable item(s) into your recycling bin hoping that the item will be recycled. With easy access to single stream recycling we may not think twice about what should actually go into our recycling bin and what should not. Single Stream recycling was introduced in early 2000s in the US. This made it convenient for individuals and businesses to dump their recyclables into one bin since the recyclables would be later separated at the sorting facilities. Since this was much more convenient for customers, recycling rates increased but so did the contamination rate. Contamination rate is at 25% today, 1 out of 4 items placed in the recycling bin do not get recycled.



Recycling contamination occurs when unrecyclable items are mixed with recyclable items or when recyclable items are prepared incorrectly. For example, most pizza boxes (cardboards) have recyclable symbols so you may toss the pizza box into recycle bin thinking it will be recycled. However, because of the grease and food chunks left in the box, your pizza box becomes impossible to recycle. It is not just the case of pizza box, but because paper absorbs oil and residue from food, most food containers such as smoothie bottles, take-out containers, paper napkins, plates and towels run into the same problem as the pizza box. Try composting your pizza box instead!

Contamination increases the recycling cost, puts recycling businesses in severe financial risk and adds trash to already overfilled landfills. In the US, only 34% of waste gets recycled. We need to do better with our recyclables!

Here are 5 tips to recycle right:

Check what can actually go into your recycling bin

Recycling procedures will vary from city to city so make sure to visit your municipality’s website or even call them and ask what you can toss into your recycling bin. Pay extra attention to items like electronics, bottle caps and glasses. You may have local drop-off centers and your municipality may even collect food or yard waste for composting

Clean the food off

You don’t need to wash the containers that your municipality accepts but do rinse it out. Food scraps from bean cans, beer bottles and even milk jugs may end up in paper products (remember the pizza boxes?) and make it impossible to recycle them. In 2015, 67 percent of the waste that was recycled (out of 67.8 million tons) was paper and paperboard, so make sure your items do not ruin the good batch of recyclables.



Break down the boxes

Unbroken down boxes may be difficult for machines to process. Additionally, boxes may have tapes, glues or labels (contamination!) so make sure to toss only clean boxes into your recycling bin next time.

Do not put plastic bags in the recycling bin

Plastic bags should never be placed into recycling bin. Plastic bags create a nightmare for waste managers by plugging up machinery so make sure to dump your recyclables out of the plastic bag. Plastic bags may be accepted at some drop-off locations near you!



Use recyclable or recycled material

When you purchase products with recycled content, you’re closing the recycling loop and making sure the cycle continues. By choosing products that are recyclable you are creating less trash that may end up in the landfill and avoiding contamination. You can do more by choosing reusable products over single use products. You can start with reusable tote bags, bamboo toothbrushes, reusable water bottles, wooden hair brush, stainless steel tupperware and straw, reusable bamboo cutlery, silicon sandwich bags and more!

You can find general information on Recycling through Recyclopedia and Make America Beautiful.