Almost all of us want to recycle and keep trash out of those nasty landfills! Unfortunately, many of us struggle with the HOW because let’s face it, the industry has not made it very clear cut. Here are 7 tips to help get your” better recycling self” in gear.
1. Ask Google, Siri, or Alexa.
Due to various factors, the ability to accept recyclable materials can vary from region to region. An important first step to recycling properly is contacting your hauler to see what types of items they accept. Just because an item has the “recyclable” symbol on it, does not mean that it is actually recyclable in your area. For example, in Boulder, CO the only kind of plastic cups that can be recycled is the thick “souvenir-style” cups. All other plastic cups must be thrown away.
Calling and contacting your waste hauler may be a lengthy effort, so the fastest thing to do is trust your favorite search engine assistant. Search to see if your hauler or municipality has an online resource to help educate you about what can be recycled. Eco-Cycle’s “A-Z Recycling Guide” is a great resource for anyone in Boulder, Colorado. The City of Denver’s website has a “What Can Be Recycled” page which is also a great online resource for anyone in Denver, Colorado. A simple google search of “what can I recycle in (insert city)” should bring up great information.
2. Take a Tour of your Recycling Facility
If you have the chance, this can be a really interesting experience to see first-hand how materials are sorted. You’ll see why certain items can’t be collected, and learn about the economics behind recycling.
3. Learn the “Always” Items
Learn what common items you can always recycle in your area, with no caveats. This will almost always be Aluminum Cans, Aluminum Foil, Clean Cardboard, Paper, and in most cases Glass Bottles.
4. Learn the “Never Items”
Learn what common items you can never recycle in your area, with no exceptions. These will almost always be Medical Waste, Hazardous Waste, Plastic Bags, Food Waste (compost is an option), Plastic Packaging, Shredded Paper, Scrap Metal, Liquids in Containers, Ceramics, Light Bulbs, and Frozen Food Boxes/Plastic-Coated Paper.
Some areas may have a Center for Hard to Recycle Materials that accepts items like Motor Oil, Paint, E-Waste, Styrofoam Blocks, Yoga Mats, Etc. Revert back to our first tip and simply google local resources for hard to recycle items, you will be surprised of the resources available just from your smartphone.
5. Learn the “Special” Items and Rules
Sometimes there are special rules that we need to follow when recycling certain things. This is because of the way these materials get sorted at the recycling facility, and if we don’t follow these rules it can’t mess up the machinery at these facilities or cause items to get mixed-up.
For example, when recycling Aluminum Foil make sure to form it into a loose ball. This will ensure that it does not get mixed up with flat pieces of paper.
6. Use the Signage
If you’re traveling to a new area, always look for signage and carefully read through it. Like we mentioned earlier, the ability to accept materials can vary from region to region and just because a product has a recyclable symbol on it doesn’t mean that it can actually be recycled. If there is no signage than do the world a favor and bring it up with that particular business.
7. When in Doubt, Throw it Out
If you’ve exhausted all your other options and you still can’t confidently say that it should be recycled, just throw it away. “Wishful Recycling”, or simply putting items in the recycling because you want them to be recyclable, does more harm than good. The non-recyclable items that end up in the recycling contaminate the recyclables, which then requires more time for sorting, and ultimately makes them less valuable.
Author: Witt Harlin
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