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10 Tips to Clear Up Recycling Confusion
Think you got recycling in the bag? Get a refresher on some recycling Dos and Don'ts!
A common eco-friendly New Year’s resolution for many is to start recycling. However, what can and cannot be recycled may be far from clear. There is often confusion between what constitutes as trash, recycling, or as compost, but we’re here to clear that up! Follow these 10 tips to make recycling easier in 2021!
Editor's Note: Recycling standards may differ from municipality to municipality, so please check in with your local waste management contacts for the most accurate information on how your city recycles!
Don’t Recycle Used Paper Products
While it’s widely accepted that paper products can be recycled, do not recycle used paper plates, napkins, or paper towels. These items are not recyclable once they have been contaminated with food, grease, or liquid, and cannot be reused. Instead, consider using reusable dishware, or eco-friendly disposable serving ware.
Don’t Recycle Pizza Boxes
Similarly, do not recycle pizza boxes. Like paper products, the cardboard used for pizza boxes is not recyclable after it has been contaminated by grease or liquids. In addition, many recycling facilities do not have machinery capable of processing pizza boxes because of their large size.
Don’t Recycle Receipts
Recycling paper receipts may seem like a win-win: the those pesky receipts won’t add to clutter at home, and it helps the environment, right? However, this is a myth. Receipts are made from more than one material, which cannot be separated during the recycling process. What’s more, receipts may also contain dangerous chemicals, known as BPA and BPS, which could harm the environment if receipts are included in the recycling or compost bin.
Don’t Recycle Styrofoam
It’s easy to mistake styrofoam for a paper or plastic product that would be safe to recycle. Styrofoam is used to package lots of products currently on the market, such as DVD cases, shipping materials, and even the egg cartons in the grocery store. While throwing away styrofoam may seem harmless, it is actually quite problematic. In fact, styrofoam is highly flammable because it is made with petroleum, and can be dangerous for recycling facilities, where plastic is melted down at high temperatures for reuse.
Do Recycle Some Plastic
Plastic is usually okay to recycle, but not all plastic is considered equal in the world of recycling. Each city has different rules on what plastic their local facilities will and won’t accept. To be on the safe side, always make sure plastic silverware is clean and dry before it ends up in the recycling bin. Plastic silverware that is wet or contaminated by food is less likely to be accepted.
Do Recycle Batteries and Electronics
Lots of old electronics and household appliances in your home, as well as the batteries that powered them, are perfectly safe to recycle and doing so prevents harmful chemicals from entering the environment. However, these items typically should not go into your normal recycling bin. Batteries should be dropped off at specified disposal locations, but some cities offer next-day pick up services. Similarly, used light bulbs can be recycled at most Home Depot stores. In addition, many electronic retailers, such as Apple and Best Buy, will accept old electronics for repurposing, and recycling household appliances might be rewarded with discounts or rebates when replacements are purchased!
Do Recycle Holiday Greeting Cards
Rest assured that holiday greeting cards are safe to recycle when they are made of paper. In addition, some companies and hospitals, such as St. Jude, will recycle greeting cards for a good cause. St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital asks for unused and unwanted greeting cards, as they will repurpose the cards to bring joy to their patients.
Do Recycle Eyeglasses
Eyeglasses can break, prescriptions can change, and sometimes it’s simply time to try out a new look. Whatever the reason, recycle old pairs of glasses before purchasing new ones. Plastic and metal frames can be refurbished, and old lenses can be broken down to create new lenses. Check with your local eye doctor to find out how you can recycle your old pairs of glasses.
Turn Your Trash Into Treasure
The point of recycling is to make something reusable out of trash. A subsection of recycling is called ”upcycling,” where many small businesses will sell products made from recycled materials, such as purses, jewelry, and even some furniture. When you purchase these unique and often one-of-a-kind products that are made from recycled materials, you are supporting small businesses in addition to making an environmentally friendly purchase. If you enjoy crafting, you may be able to repurpose some of your own trash into DIY art projects
Don’t Forget Your Compost Pile
Before throwing old items into the garbage, consider if they could be compost instead. The composting process allows trash to become a nutrient-rich soil conditioner instead of sitting in a landfill. Many items that are not recyclable may be compostable. For example, paper products that have been soiled by food, as well as food in general, are all safe to put in the composting bin. Plus, some compostable items may even surprise you! Did you know that coffee grinds, pet hair, and vacuum bag contents can all go in your compost bin?
As a reminder, It’s always a good idea to check out the recycling rules in your city as they may vary. Cheers to a very green new year!