Recycling has many benefits for the environment and your local community. First and foremost, it reduces the amount of waste being sent to landfills and incinerators. It also helps conserve natural resources, saves energy, and creates jobs.
Thankfully, recycling is also one of the easiest ways we can pitch in and do our part to be more eco-conscious. Grabbing a recycle bin and getting the pickup schedule from your local county or township office is easy. Sorting recyclables like glass, plastic bottles, aluminum cans, paper, and cardboard seems simple enough, right?
Unfortunately, people may not realize recycle collections can be (and are) rejected. In fact, several common recycling mistakes can contaminate an entire recycle bin and waste a whole week’s well-intended environmental efforts.
So, what can you do? First off, don’t get discouraged. Remember, you’re helping a good cause by learning the proper way to recycle. To help you get on track, we’ve put together a list of five of the most common recycling mistakes to avoid.
If It’s Covered in Food, Don’t Throw It in the Recycle Bin
In general, greasy pizza and takeout boxes can’t be recycled. The oils and food remnants/waste trapped on them will contaminate a recycle collection and it will be rejected. This also applies to paper towels, napkins, fast food bags or anything that might have food or food scraps in it or on it. Throw these kinds of items away. Also, be sure to rinse out plastic or glass containers, bottles or tin cans so they are clean before you put them into the recycle bin.
Disposable Coffee Cups Can Contaminate the Recycle Bin
Attempting to recycle your morning takeout coffee cup could essentially contaminate an entire bin. According to Stand.earth, four billion Starbucks coffee cups end up in landfills every year. The disposable cups are reportedly difficult to recycle due to a thin, tightly-bonded polyethylene liner that prevents the cup from soaking up the contents of the liquid. Facilities that are equipped to separate the lining from the cup to make it suitable for recycling are far and few between. (For example, there are only three in the UK). On the upside, Stand.earth further reports Starbucks announced it is committed to bringing a fully recyclable and compostable cup to market by 2021.
The Plight of the Plastic Bottle Top
Liquid soap dispenser pump tops cannot be recycled and should be put in the trash. Per the EPA, you should be able to recycle bottle caps. However, some local facilities do not allow plastic caps to be recycled. Therefore, check with your local office before adding a plastic bottle with a cap to your bin. If recycling is permitted, you can cap the bottle and then squash it to remove air which aids in the recycling process.
Don’t Ditch Your Dirty Diapers into the Recycle Bin
Despite diapers being made of plastic and/or paper materials, soiled diapers contain contaminating human waste. Therefore, keep dirty diapers out of the recycle bin and toss them instead. Or, for an eco-friendlier option, consider using cloth diapers which can be washed and reused.
The Complete Do-Not-Recycle List
Unsure as to whether the item you’re trying to dispose of is recyclable? There are several items which should never be put in a curbside recycle bin. An EPA list of recycling Don’ts includes garden hoses, aerosol cans that are not empty, sewing needles, bowling balls, and any materials labeled as hazardous waste. RecycleNow also adds drinking glasses, wet wipes, plastic toys, cotton wool, mirrors, toothpaste and bathroom tissues to their do-not-recycle list.