Recycling becomes more and more commonplace each year. Before you pat yourself on the back for your eco-friendliness, however, you should know that many people mess up their recycling in unexpected and unintended ways. Here are just a few mistakes that you might be making with your big blue bins.
You’re Throwing Away Dirty Items
Contamination is a widespread problem with recycled goods. If something can’t be cleaned or sanitized, recycling plants have to dump it with the regular trash instead of earmarking it for the recycling process. This means that used paper towels, greasy pizza boxes and stained food packages are a no-go for recycling. You’ll only increase the workload of plant employees by including them in your recycle bin.
You’re Throwing Away Non-Recyclable Goods
This is another big problem faced by recycling workers. The average citizen is still confused about what can and can’t be broken down, so their recycle bins are filled with things like plastic bags, shower curtains and garden hoses. Not only do workers have to pick this stuff out of your trash, but it can also tangle in their equipment and cause shutdowns. Avoid any shredded paper products, too: The pieces are too small to go through the machines, so they just fall out and have to be swept up.
You’re Not Recycling Things That You Should Recycle
The opposite of the problem above is when you assume that something is trash when it can actually be flattened, melted or just re-cut into something new. For example, if you have leftover scrap metal from an old renovation project, there are companies, like Cozzi Recycling, that will actually pick it up for you just to recycle it. You can also recycle a surprising amount of electronics, so don’t throw away those old laptops and televisions.
You Aren’t Separating Your Trash
While it’s certainly convenient to have one big recycling bin for all of your cans and milk jugs, it’s not that great for recycling plants. According to those who work the conveyor belts, “single-stream recycling” can easily double contamination rates. If you really want to save the environment, start separating your recyclables into different containers.
These are just a few common mistakes made by good-hearted people who don’t understand the recycling process. Don’t let this information discourage you from the practice, however. It’s admirable that you want to save the planet, and now that you have more knowledge than before, you can do it with increased passion and efficiency.
Hannah Whittenly is a freelance writer and mother of two from Sacramento, CA. She enjoys kayaking and reading books by the lake.