Recycling Bins: What Goes In & What Stays Out

June 24, 2024

A little environmental awareness can go a long way in creating a safer environment for you and your neighbors. Recycling is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can contribute to a healthier planet.

By being a bit organized, you can keep tons of waste out of landfills. Even more? You give new life to old materials. However, knowing what goes into your recycling 12 gallon trash bags and what stays out can sometimes be confusing. With so many items wrapped in various types of packaging, it’s hard to tell what’s recyclable.

Understanding this is especially important because it helps prevent the contamination of recyclables with non-recyclable materials, ensuring that your efforts truly make a difference. This article will guide you on what should go into your recycling bins and what should stay out.

What Goes in the Recycle Bin?

Recyclable materials should go into your recycling bin. These materials include:

Paper Products

You can toss newspapers and magazines directly into your recycling bin, but make sure they’re dry. Wet paper products can degrade and become difficult to process, reducing the quality of the recycled material.

Cardboard boxes are also paper products. They can be corrugated, with a wavy middle layer, or non-corrugated. Either way, they are recyclable. To save space and ensure efficient processing, break down the boxes before placing them in the bin. This also prevents any leftover food or liquids from contaminating other recyclables.

Items like printer paper, envelopes, and junk mail are all recyclable. They don’t need to be pristine, as a little ink or writing won’t affect the recycling process. Just ensure there’s no food residue or significant contamination from gunk.

Plastic Containers

Plastic containers, including soda bottles, milk jugs, detergent, and shampoo containers, can also be recycled. Before recycling, give them a quick rinse to remove any residue. Leaving them unrinsed can attract pests and contaminate other recyclables.

Containers for products like yogurt, margarine, and similar items are recyclable if they’re cleaned out. Again, a quick rinse to remove leftover food will help ensure they are processed correctly.

Metal Cans

Aluminum beverage cans are highly recyclable. Rinse them out to remove any leftover liquid before tossing them in the recycling bin. Aluminum can be recycled indefinitely, making it a valuable material to keep in the recycling loop.

Canned food containers are typically made of steel or tin. These materials can also be recycled. Like with other recyclable containers, you should clean them out before recycling for a more efficient recycling process.

Glass Containers

Clear, green, and brown glass bottles and jars are recyclable. Remove any lids and rinse the containers to ensure they’re free of food or drink residue. This helps maintain the quality of the recycled glass and prevents contamination.

What Should Stay Out of Recycling Bins?

Plastic Bags and Films

Plastic bags and films can cause major problems at recycling facilities. They tangle in the machinery, creating hours of needless labor. Instead of putting them in your recycling bin, take them to a local grocery store that offers a bag recycling program. Many stores have dedicated bins for collecting plastic bags and films.

Beverage cartons, such as those for milk, juice, and soup, are not usually recyclable. They often have a thin plastic coating that keeps them waterproof, which impacts the recycling process and renders them usable.

However, some recycling programs accept them. You should check your local recycling guidelines to be sure.

Food Waste

Although biodegradable, food waste doesn’t belong in your recycling bin. It can contaminate other recyclables, making them harder to process. Composting food waste is a better option, as it can become a valuable soil amendment.

Styrofoam

Styrofoam, or expanded polystyrene, is not recyclable in most curbside programs due to its low density and contamination. Some special recycling facilities accept it, so check locally and see what is obtainable.

Broken Glass

Glass from windows, mirrors, or light bulbs has different properties than glass bottles and jars and should not be mixed with them. These types of glass can disrupt the recycling process for container glass and should be disposed of through other means or specialized recycling programs.

Hazardous Materials and Electronic Waste

Items like batteries, electronics, and chemicals require special handling due to their potentially dangerous contents. Many communities have specific drop-off locations for these materials. You may find companies that run pick-ups for these kinds of waste.

Non-Recyclable Plastics

Not all plastics are recyclable. Items like plastic cutlery, straws, and certain types of packaging often can’t be processed in standard recycling facilities. Look for the recycling symbols and numbers on plastics to determine if they’re recyclable in your area, and try to avoid single-use plastics when possible.

Final Words

Understanding what can and cannot be recycled is important for effective recycling and environmental sustainability. Properly sorting recyclable materials like paper, cardboard, and plastic containers helps reduce landfill waste and allows these materials to be repurposed.

On the other hand, keeping non-recyclables like plastic bags, food waste, and hazardous materials out of recycling bins prevents contamination and inefficiencies in the recycling process. By following the guidelines outlined here, you can significantly contribute to a healthier planet and a cleaner community.

 

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