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Every day, more individuals, groups, and businesses are going GREEN. We are all trying to work hard to shrink our carbon footprint, change industry practices, and address climate change and to provide a more sustainable, safer, and cleaner future for everyone.
No universal recycling laws are mandating what materials are to be recyclable. But if you find understanding recycling's rules of the road confusing, you're not alone.
For example, figuring out whether your local recycling facility accepts bottle caps was relegated to the business or consumer, only adding to the confusion. Not knowing the local recycling guidelines tends to lower recycling participation rates.
When it comes to recycling best practices, there is no standard. They change city by city and from business to business. Keeping up with the dos and don'ts is challenging. In their article, We're All Recycling Wrong, So Companies Are Finally Trying To Make It Easier, HuffPost takes a hard look at recycling and how some companies are taking action to turn things around. The Grocery Manufacturing Association's latest study found that 92% of respondents were unclear about what could be recycled.
Understanding the do's and don'ts of recycling is not as complicated as some people think. Here we demystify the process in simple terms. We now use a wide range of recyclable materials globally; the guidelines and rules are as different and varied as their locations. And it appears that the list of 'banned' items, those that are not recyclable, continues to grow. Here's the breakdown:
This section identifies common mistakes to avoid, whether materials are recyclable, and helps you understand best practices for recycling.
Always check with your local recycling provider—recycling plants are set up to handle specific materials. Recycling plastics is incredibly confusing due to all various types of plastics and what is/isn't recyclable.
Sort your recyclable materials by the following "streams":
Separate the materials into the various bins provided by your recycling service for more accessible and more efficient processing—avoid "wish-cycling" (more on this later). "Clean-streaming" also helps retain the value of the materials due to higher efficiency in the recycling process.
Food or drink can contaminate the whole load, sending it to the landfill. Ensure that all metal, plastic, and glass materials are emptied and rinsed before recycling.
Breaking down your cardboard helps you optimize the space in your container(s).
Not all plastic resins may be recyclable in your area.
Grocery bags clog up recycling equipment; they require special recycling. Reusable bags are a great alternative.
Recycling plants cannot recycle greasy or oily cardboard--the oils are inseparable from the paper fibers. Plus, they attract pests and create unsanitary conditions.
Yard waste or organics contaminate recyclables. Organic materials are compostable.
These plastics are generally not collected curbside since they tend to jam up the equipment.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) can be found in:
LDPE (Low-density Polyethylene) is found in:
Other items not picked up curbside for recycling include PP (Polypropylene), i.e., luggage, furniture, and toys. PS(Polystyrene) found in Styrofoam, egg cartons, disposable dinnerware and cups, and PS, which is single-use plastic, is also not recyclable curbside. Check with your recycling service if these plastics are accepted.
A recycling symbol is stamped somewhere on the packaging (usually on the bottom) with a number ranging from 1-7 stamped in the center. That number is a resin identification code. It is used by recycling facilities to sort materials and identify the kind of plastic it is to determine the proper processing. Those numbers also identify what items they can accept — and which get trashed.
From a recycling plant's point of view, if you don't have a buyer for the type of material you are recycling, it may not be worth recycling. However, the flip side is, if a market exists for a particular product, then Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) sort and bale the recyclables based upon the specific product. They get paid based on the quality of the product—the less contamination, the more they get paid.
Contamination results when the wrong type of plastic is placed into the wrong batch—drastically lowering the value of the end-product intended for resale; lower purity equals lower profits for the recycling facilities. If they don't turn a profit, MRFs will either stop recycling those types of plastics or pass through the losses in the form of increased costs.
Improper recycling, aka "wish-cycling," has repercussions for the entire program. Here are several reasons why only 100% recyclable materials should go into the recycling bin.
Know the rules for your recycling service.
Recycling and trash should be your last resort. Reduce and reuse as much as possible! Together, we can make a difference by ensuring that as much material as possible gets properly recycled!