Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is a mantra adopted by many. The benefits of recycling are many, yet according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), only 34.5 percent of what Americans discard gets recycled. What’s more, many people who regularly recycle may be unaware that they’re making mistakes. Are you recycling properly? Read on to learn what you may be doing wrong and how to become a recycling pro.
Mistake #1: Thinking something cannot be recycled
Many people toss things in the trash that can and should be recycled or upcycled. With a little bit of investigating, you can drop certain household item at recycling centers, arrange to have your items picked up, or donate them. Crayons, for example, can be donated to needy children, children’s hospitals, or sent to the National Crayon Recycle Program. According to GreenAmerica.org, the following are just a few of the common items that should be recycled and kept away from landfills:
- Ink Cartridges
- Aluminum Foil/pie plates/trays
- Holiday Lights
- Water filters
For a complete list of items that can be recycled and how to recycle them, visit search.earth911.com.
Mistake #2: Tossing bottle caps in the trash
Until recently, we were instructed to remove all bottle caps from bottles before recycling. Caps from common household products, such as soda and water bottles are often made from polypropylene plastic (marked by the number 5 on containers) and many recycling facilities didn’t have the proper equipment to recycle them. Improved recycling technology now makes it possible to recycle entire bottles – caps and all. Some – not all – facilities throughout Connecticut accept bottle caps. Check with your local recycling facility for more information.
Mistake #3: Filling your recycling bin with dirty pizza boxes
The cardboard box your pizza comes in is recyclable – if it’s clean. Boxes covered with oil stains and stuck-on cheese makes a mess of the recycling process. Unlike plastics and glass (which uses heat during the recycling process) cardboard uses water to break down the fibers into a pulp. The oils released during the process ends up ruining the quality of batch that’s being made into new paper and cardboard. Before putting your favorite pizza takeout box in the recycle bin cut or trim greasy spots.
Mistake #4: Recycling plastic shopping bags
Sure they’re made of plastic, but plastic shopping bags are notorious for getting caught in the automatic sorting machines at recycling facilities. Once thought to be utilitarian, plastic bags are damaging the environment and recycling facility equipment! What should you do with your plastic bags? Many grocery and retail stores have bins to collect plastic bags.
Mistake #5: Putting shredded paper in the recycling bin
According to the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP), shredded paper is just as bad for recycling equipment as plastic shopping bags. That’s because those tiny shreds of paper can clog up the machines and get mixed in and tangled with other recyclables. DEEP suggest shredding documents only when absolutely necessary. If you have shredded paper to get rid of, consider turning it into compost. Since wood-based paper is biodegradable, it will mix in nicely with your compost pile.
Mistake #6: All plastics aren’t created equal
The numbers on the bottom of your plastic containers represent the type of material used and are a guide as to whether or not you can toss them in your home recycling bin. The following is a list of the common types of plastic and whether or not they can be recycled:
- Number 1: polyethylene terephthalate; containers made from this material include soda bottles, water bottles, and peanut butter containers. Plastics marked number 1 can be put in your curbside recycling bin.
- Number 2: high density polyethylene; milk jugs, fruit juice bottles, and shampoo/conditioner bottles are usually made from this material. Number 2 plastics can be put in your curbside recycling bin.
- Number 3: vinyl or PVC; containers made from this material include detergent bottles, window cleaner bottles, and vinyl siding. Number 3 plastics are not picked up as part of your curbside recycling.
- Number 4: low density polyethylene; dry cleaning bags, shopping bags, and squeezable bottles are made from this material. Number 4 plastics are usually not recycled through at-home curbside pick-up. Some laundry bags and shopping bags can be returned to the original place of business.
- Number 5: polypropylene; yogurt containers, ketchup bottles, and straws are made from polypropylene. These plastics are sometimes recycled; ask your local recycling center.
- Number 6: polystyrene; egg cartons and disposable cups and plates are made from polystyrene. Not all curbside recycling accepts number 6 plastics; consult your local recycling facility.
- Number 7: miscellaneous materials: sunglasses, DVDs, and 5-gallon water bottles are made from number 7 miscellaneous plastics. These plastics are usually not picked up as part of your curbside recycling.
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