A Guide To Recycling Better Than Your Neighbor

Recycling seems like such a great idea, but when you buy your second garbage bin it seems so...large. What exactly goes in here again? This guide will give you the do's and dont's of recycling.

September 8, 2015
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Blue bins line the street as I step out the door for work. My neighbors so diligently recycle, and, consequently, I had felt the peer pressure and began to do it myself. At first it turned into my second trashcan. Things I was a little unsure of I’d toss in there because, why not? I mean if it looks recyclable it probably is…right? However, I recently tried to get rid of my broken Swiffer. It’s plastic, and plastic is recyclable, but to my dismay they completely refused my trash deposits for the week. I didn’t understand, maybe it was a glitch, but everyone else had their trash cans already stowed away for the week. Little did I know that there were strict and specific rules for recycling. As I became more informed I felt vaguely annoyed that I wasn’t able to recycle everything that was biodegradable, it seemed like such a waste. However, recycling organizations were emphatic if not overly persistent that this was the only way considering most recycling plants have switched sorting over to machines. Okay, okay I’ll give them that.

But you know what’s an even bigger shame? How so many recyclable materials are scrapped because they haven’t properly been thrown away or emptied. Or, god forbid, someone had attempted to sneak in unrecyclable material…just for fun? Why intentionally put something in a recycling bin that you know isn’t going to fly with the recycling department? So, let’s all set down our hypodermic needles and take a seat. Below I’ve listed a few sweet and salty tips on what you can and can’t do while recycling (Washington Post).

Remove That Pizza Box

Yeah, you read that right. No. Pizza. Boxes. Allowed. When I first read this my mind was blown. Kaboom! Well, the reason behind why is pretty incredible. Evidently, food is one of the greatest foes to the recycling industry, specifically for paper products. Paper is recycled by having water mixed with it eventually turning it into a nice wet slurry. Now let’s go back to elementary school, or even back to your dinner last night. Water and oil don’t mix, just take a look at your vinaigrette if you’re still unconvinced. I’m assuming you see the issue. Grease from pizza boxes (oil) prevents the slurry from forming causing chunks of cardboard to be floating around the slurry. This is not great news for recycling manufacturers. Even though many of your pizza boxes claim to be recyclable, technically they are before the pizza is placed within, just use a rule of thumb and trash it the traditional way (Recyclebank). 

Clearly, just because something is technically recyclable doesn’t mean it fits America’s recycling qualifications. Take for example Christmas tree lights, can you imagine what a tangly mess that can make for a recycling machine? Unfortunately, recycling processes are still being developed so until they’ve become perfect follow the rules! 

Avoid Helping

Although this is a bit tongue in cheek it’s also true. Recycling plants do NOT want you bagging your recyclables. They have to rip apart every bag to inspect the items making sure they don’t contain prohibited contents that will damage the machinery further down the conveyer belt. Also, those bags have a tendency to get all caught up in the machinery, clogging the machinery, and forcing employees to shut down the system for hours while they handpick bags from the machine’s levers. A lot of times team members don’t have time to sift through each bag so perfectly recyclable material may just be tossed into a landfill to avoid slowing down the recycling process (Washington Post). 

No Need To Quench Your Thirst

I typically followed the practice of making sure all my water bottles, soda cans, and containers were liquid free. I’ve gone so far as to rummage in my recycling bin because I accidentally threw away a half empty soda. But did you know a few drops of liquid inside a bottle is actually a great thing? When your plastic bottles are going down the long conveyor belt there’s a lot of motion and wind. There are quite a few times where a bottle may go zooming across the room because it’s so light and has nothing weighing it down. When your bottles finally get underneath the crushers and balers all of the excess liquid will instantly be dispersed, proving no problem with their usability. 

Go The Extra Mile

Sometimes recycling is your extra mile. Although it seems simple enough, all of those extra seconds you spend sorting and tossing add up. Recycling is crazy good for our environment. You’re taking those renewable resources and recycling them for another round of use. We’re constantly making more and more “things” from raw materials and eventually those items are going to become scarce, like trees. 

Let’s say that recycling has become old hat for you. How can you go the extra mile? Well, check to see if you have recycling plants nearby that offer sorting bins. Make the extra effort to head that way and toss your sorted glass, metals, paper, and electronics. This will help expedite the recycling process and avoid any unknown mishaps on your part.

Give Back 

Composting is about to make a huge surge becoming equivalent in popularity with recycling. Environmentalists are saying that the organic material rotting in landfills are producing the third biggest source of methane gas. If this keeps occurring at the same or an increasing rate, it will eventually play a part in global warming. Instead of raking and tossing your grass clippings and leaves place them in a compost. Eventually, this will turn into nutrient-rich soil that’s perfect for your garden activities. You can feel proud that you not only created your own fertilizer, but that you most likely saved money on store bought fertilizers, as well. 

Recycling is a little more complex than just tossing your plastic bottles into a bin, but if you take two minutes out of your day to become informed you’ll be doing yourself and your children a great service by respecting the earth and treating it well. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Staff Writer