The process of recycling is that of the collection and reprocessing of reusable scrap or waste that would otherwise be thrown away as trash and surrendered to landfills. The best way to reduce waste responsibly is by giving a product or its packaging a second chance at life. Within implementing a reduce, reuse, and recycle mindset we are able to do our part in keeping our planet green and clean!
There are countless benefits associated with recycling. First and foremost, it reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators. The industry as a whole creates thousands of jobs, saves energy, prevents pollution, and conserves natural resources such as timber, water and minerals. In the wake of a more environmentally conscious society, more and more of today’s products are being manufactured with recycled content. Today, we still are learning about new innovative ways that we can use recyclable materials.
While it is safe to assume that most people know what recycling is or why it’s important, many individuals do not know how to recycle effectively. This could be because there is no universal law that applies everywhere. In fact, recycling is a prominent crisis within the United States due to the public confusion surrounding it’s processes. It’s a common misconception that if you toss it in the recycling, it will end up being repurposed. However, putting contaminated or incorrect items in your bin can compromise an entire truck of materials. Alternatively, tons of recyclable material get thrown into the garbage and end up in our landfills, oceans, and neighborhoods every year. Sometimes it is tempting to throw away anything that looks reusable, in hopes of doing the right thing. So it helps to understand the process long after your cart is picked up from the curb.
After your recycling is collected, those items are then sent to a sorting facility to be cleaned, separated and processed into materials that can be used in manufacturing. Items that cannot be recycled are thrown into the trash. But the recyclables are bought and sold just like raw materials would be! The prices of different materials go up and down depending on the quality, as well as supply and demand in the current market. For example, PET plastic found in water bottles is much more valuable than many other types of plastic, making it important to separate out. Correctly recycling one ton of plastic bottles saves the equivalent energy usage of a two person household for an entire year! Any unaccepted plastics or compromised materials will not be recycled and inevitably end up in a landfill.
Do your research
It’s very important to note what kind of materials your specific collection and management service accept. It will vary from area to area. Just because the item has a recycling symbol on it, does not mean that it can be recycled. Generally speaking, most collection companies will accept cardboard, paper, metals, tin, and aluminum cans. It gets tricky when it comes down to separating out plastics. For example, here at ABC Waste we accept plastics 1 and 2 in our carts. If you’ve ever checked to see if there was a little recycling symbol on an item you were throwing out, you may have also noticed a little number. These tiny numbers printed on plastic packages — #1 through #7 define what type of plastic the item is. Checking this number will help you determine which cart the item belongs in! Learn more about the types of recyclable plastic.
Research what type of materials your collection company accepts in your cart
The rules for acceptable items vary from place to place. The most common widely accepted types of plastic for curbside pick up are Plastics #1 and #2. They are also the most easily recyclable.
Empty, clean, and rinse items
Items placed in recycling must be cleaned of any leftover food or liquids, and dried. Contaminated items can potentially compromise an entire truck of waste. In which case the entire haul will be brought to a landfill.
Recycle clean and flattened cardboard
Don’t pay for air! Flattening your cardboard boxes will result in more space for other recycling and less pick ups.
Contact your local municipality for bulk item pick up information
Items like mattresses, appliances, couches and of that sort DO have the potential to be recycled. Please call your local municipality to find out how they collect and manage those items or consider donating any items that are still in good shape.
Always reuse when possible
Things like plastic grocery bags that are not recyclable can we reused many of times before they will need to be thrown in with the trash. You can always purchase cloth or reusable bags to replace the need for plastic bags when picking up your groceries.
Close the recycling loop – when shopping look for products that are easily recycled or products that are manufactured with recycled content
Manufacturers love to be able to reuse materials, often it will be part of the packaging to attract consumers. Pay attention to the label, check to see that it is a easily recycled plastic or that it is made from recycled products.
If your collection company does not accept plastics 3,4,5,6, or 7 – try to reduce your use of these products
Reduce your use of these plastics when it’s possible. Recycling companies don’t accept some of these types of plastics because they are dangerous and/or very hard to recycle. Avoiding use entirely when possible means that they will cannot end up in our landfills.
Don’t bag your recycling – leave all items loose in the cart
Most waste management companies will not pick up your recycling cart if it is separated into bags. If it is retrieved, more often than not it ends up going straight into the trash bin. The plastic bags are very hard on the machinery used to sort through trash and it’s very costly to fix. If you need to put them in a bag to get them to a drop-off point, make sure you open the bag and dump the materials out.
Don’t recycle yard waste – contact your local municipality for more information
Common items that cannot be recycled (including but not limited to):
- Plastic bags (i.e. grocery bags, sandwich bags, ziploc bags)
- Contaminated paper products (i.e. pizza boxes)
- Aluminum foil
- Aerosol cans
- Light bulbs, mirrors, pyrex glass
- Styrofoam containers or packaging
- Electronics and batteries
- “Tanglers” (i.e. hoses, christmas lights)
If you take anything away from this piece, let it be these two important recycling tips
- Find out what your collection company accepts in your recycling
- When it doubt, throw it out. It may sound counterintuitive but contaminating recyclable material by mixing in stuff that can’t be recycled causes more harm than good.
To learn more about our residential curbside recycling service visit The ABC Waste Recycling page.
Source: Recycling Across America Website