Thought You Could Recycle These Items? Think Again. - Leaf'd

Thought You Could Recycle These Items? Think Again.

by Eli Mann
You may ask how the addition of items you’re unsure about can cause responsibly recycled materials to end up in the trash. This has to do with the process by which items are sorted for recycling. Typically, oversight happens by human sorting. However, if a pile of single origin comes down the conveyor and there is an item mixed in that cannot be recycled, a massive broom simply sweeps the whole pile off, earmarking it for trash. That ball of cellophane you weren’t sure was a recyclable plastic could be responsible for ALL of your recyclables ending up in a landfill. While we’re on the subject of plastics, always check the container for a recycling code number. This number will determine if the item is able to be recycled and whether that varietal of plastic can be thrown in with the bulk of your recyclable plastics. It’s also important to rinse out plastic containers before recycling them. While that last sweep of your spoon may have cleared out most of the solid food matter, the remnant sauce or dressing inside can still prevent it from being deemed recyclable and sent to the trash heap.   Here are some things NOT available for recycling:
  1. Plastic Bags

Though they may seem like a well-constructed enough material to be recycled, plastic bags of most varieties are not recyclable including trash bags, inner cereal box bags, sandwich bags, bubble wrap and cellophane. There are some grocery store bags which are recyclable, but in many parts of the country, programs are developing to either outphase these bags, or charge customers extra for them causing many to opt for bringing their own reusable grocery bags.
  1. Soiled Materials

Soiled refers to anything that has either absorbed or otherwise retained any biological contaminants. For instance, used napkins, pizza boxes, aluminum foil or food cans with oil or food particles attached to them.
  1. Materials Without Enough Raw Material For Recovery

For some recycling programs items like single coffee cups, to-go containers, coolers, etc., don’t possess enough material to reconstitute into reusable material. Check your local recycling program to find out whether styrofoam recycling is available and whether these items fall within the parameters of what can be recycled.
  1. Glass

Though it’s organic nature seems like an easy material to reconstitute, the method for reforming and reusing glass is complex, and if it has any kind of coating or treatment such as tempering, it is unlikely that the glass will be recyclable.
  1. Paint

Though latex-based paint is recyclable, oil-based paint and that which has toxic additives such as mercury is not. Always check the label on the can to be sure of the paint variety. This paint can still be taken to a household hazardous waste facility for safe disposal.   The next time your empty take-out containers give you personal waste anxiety, or those old paint cans are mocking you from that unsightly corner, take heart with a little rinse or a short trip to a disposal facility. Not only are you doing your part to keep them out of landfills, but you’re playing a valuable role in the recycling of raw materials and the expenditure of precious resources in their sourcing and production. Don’t turn your back on the environment, and pat yourself on the back for being part of the reason recycling works.  
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