How To: Recycling Edition

By: Izi Munera

Recycling. We’ve all heard of it and more people are doing it, but there are some very important things to know about recycling and how to properly do it. According to the EPA, “Recycling is the process of collecting and processing materials that would otherwise be thrown away as trash and turning them into new products.” There are many benefits of recycling, including diverting waste from landfills, conserving valuable resources and saving energy. 

However, even small mistakes in the recycling process can lead to huge amounts of recyclable materials ending up in the landfills! Here are some necessary steps each of us need to take in order to recycle properly and effectively: 

  • Neither paper nor cardboard can be mixed with other materials or be contaminated with food, liquid or waste to be recycled. Be sure to separate paper items from any other kind of materials. Any contaminated paper and cardboard should be disposed of in order to prevent ruining entire batches of viable recyclables. Also, it is best to break down cardboard boxes. 
  • Metal cans are fairly straightforward when it comes to their recyclability. Any can, metal tray or aluminum foil that is contaminated with food should not be recycled. In order to make processing possible and easier, remove paper and plastic labels as well as clean out and rinse cans thoroughly. 
  • Recycling plastics isn’t as easy as it may seem. Harder plastics like detergent and water bottles are able to be recycled curbside, and in most recycling bins, but flexible plastics like plastic bags and wrap require special recycling and should not be put in the mixed recycling bins. After emptying and rinsing plastic containers, put the lid or cap back on as it is too small to be recycled alone. 
  • Remember to always rinse and dry recyclables before putting them in the container as dirty items can ruin entire truckloads of recyclables. Unless otherwise specified by your city or community, don’t bag or contain your recycling in unspecified bags. Plastic bags will get caught in processing machines, so it is best to put your recyclables directly in a bin, without a bag. If you bundle your recyclables in a bag that is not accepted by your local recycling guidelines, it will not be sorted at the recycling facility and end up in the landfill. 

The best ways to be sure you’re making the right recycling decisions is to look into your local guidelines and check for labels and proper disposal indications. The recycling icon and other indications are usually found on the back or bottom sides of containers. And finally, as important as recycling is, reusing containers as many times as possible and reducing the amount of waste you create is more important when considering your environmental impact! Thank you for reading. 

For more recycling resources, check out these websites: 

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