We’re Recycling Incorrectly, Here’s How To Fix It!

Did you know that about 30% of what we put in our recycling bins isn’t recyclable? And even worse, that it needs to be hand-picked to separate it from the recyclable material before it can be sorted by any machines?

Each time we put something that doesn’t belong in the recycling bin, there is a cost associated with it. Sometimes it’s simply the hours required to sort it out, and sometimes it’s significant damage to equipment, bringing the recycling process to a halt.

What’s the big deal about
recycling the right items?

  • Decreased efficiency - Employees at recycling plants have to pick out the items by hand that are not recyclable. The more non-recyclable items are mixed in with the recyclables, the longer this process takes.
  • Damage to equipment - The equipment made to sort recyclable materials is made for just that - recyclable materials. Things like plastic bags can damage the equipment, to the tune of thousands of dollars to fix!
  • Danger to employees - Items like broken glass and scrap metal are dangerous to the employees who need to pick through the incoming recyclables and cannot be recycled anyway, so save the risk and dispose of them safely yourself!
  • Contamination of recyclable materials - Recyclable materials are bundled and sold to companies all over the world who want to reuse them. One contaminated item can sometimes mean an entire shipment is rejected and ships back to the original location. This is costly on the environment with the extra fuel to cover a return journey, combined with making it very difficult for companies that sort recyclables to be cost-effective.

So what can we recycle
and how do we do it correctly?

  • Glass - Glass jars and bottles are easy to recycle, simply wash them and remove the labels. Make sure to throw the lid into the trash if it isn’t recyclable in your area. Some areas have stopped offering glass recycling since it so often breaks and is difficult to recycle once broken. Double check that glass is recyclable in your area before recycling it.
    Other glass items like windows or light bulbs are more difficult to recycle since they are treated with chemicals to increase their endurance, so you’ll need to look into your local recyclers to see what your options are for these items. If a glass item is broken, please throw it in the trash carefully so that no one is cut by it.
  • Cans - Wash aluminum cans and remove the label, since the plastic/paper combo usually used to make the labels is not recyclable.
  • Paper products - Paper and cardboard that has not been lined with plastic can go straight into the bin. As a rule of thumb, if it’s shiny, it’s not just paper, so put it in the trash. Please keep in mind that dirty paper like pizza boxes cannot be recycled and will potentially contaminate the batch it’s processed with.
  • Plastic - plastic is the most complicated and varies the most from area to area. Look up which numbers your local recycling company can process and make sure that you only recycle those. Number 1 and 2 plastics are recyclable in most places, while 3 and 5 are much less widely accepted.

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  • Laura Mezzanotte

    Thank you very informative!

  • Cathy Pilgrim

    I learned something new today-I didn’t know we were supposed to remove labels! Thanks, now I can recycle better.

  • JMSmooth

    Thank u for posting this information!

  • Linda

    Thanks for the information.

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