Ask most people if they recycle and they will offer a resounding YES, no doubt out of a genuine desire to be a good environmental steward. But studies show that significantly less than half of people around the world recycle, and of those who do, ample confusion exists about the correct way to recycle. At the risk of bearing bad news — there’s a pretty good chance that despite your best intentions you’re probably recycling wrong. The good news is that manufacturers who use recyclable packaging have adopted a standardized labeling system that helps consumers better understand the proper steps to take prior to recycling a whole host of items. At $BEACH, we think learning about the correct way to recycle is important. In that vein, here are some easy recycling steps we can all take to ensure our genuine desire to help aligns with current recycling industry standard procedures.
To begin with, not everything is recyclable via curbside household bins — even if it’s made of recyclable material. Styrofoam, for example, is often mistaken as recyclable when typically, it is not. Plastics like clothes hangers, grocery bags, and toys typically aren’t recyclable in curbside bins and may need to be dropped off at special city recycling centers. Call your local refuse handlers for the details. Other things that aren’t recyclable include bubble wrap, dishes, and electronic cords. Aerosol cans also make the list of things to avoid pitching into recycling bins, as do batteries, mirrors, and pizza boxes — unless the inside of the cardboard box is completely devoid of any sign of pizza residue. Most batteries are recyclable — just not in household bins. Again, check with your local municipality refuse handling department for instructions and locations for the special handling of batteries, motor oil, and large plastic toys.
For items that may be recycled via household recycling bins, there’s a surefire way to ensure recycling is done correctly, and it starts by reading labels! Updated industry recycling labels now provide graphic and language instructions to consumers about what must be done with an item to properly recycle it. Here’s an overview:
1) Cardboard: Cardboard should be recycled flat meaning boxes must be broken down at all corners and folded flat before depositing in curbside bins. When plastic bags, Styrofoam, and fasteners accompany cardboard cartons, typically they are discarded as trash; however, check with local recycling centers in case they have separate recycling bins for those items.
2) Plastic bottles: Recycling household plastics mostly entails plastic containers that held a variety of products ranging from consumables (milk, tea, juices, etc.) to cleaning and laundry supplies. Labels normally tell you if you have to rinse them or remove the label. If it comes with a sprayer mechanism, often that has to be removed as well and discarded if it contains metal. Other household plastics besides bottles require special attention, as not all plastics are alike and surprisingly not all plastics can be recycled via household bins. The safest bet is to check the product for recycling labels or stamps that provide further instructions on how to responsibly discard that item either by trash or recycling.
3) Glass: Food and beverage containers made of glass can typically be recycled many times over, as making new glass from recycled glass is typically cheaper than using raw materials. Most curbside community recycling programs accept a mix of different glass colors and glass types, and they often handle the sorting at recovery facilities. Again, double check with local recycling program authorities for the final say on mixing/sorting requirements.
4) Household Hazardous Waste (HHW): Paints, cleaners, oils, batteries, and pesticides containing potentially hazardous ingredients require special disposal. Perhaps the first line of defense regarding such products is limiting purchases, opting instead for biodegradable environmentally friendly alternatives. Often, special collection centers and events happen throughout the year, so check with recycling centers for those dates, times, and locations.
5) Motor Oil & Tires: Most garages offer free recycling of old tires and used motor oil. If not, be prepared to pay a small fee that will be well worth the hassle of having to dispose of these cumbersome items yourself. They are in such abundance in societies all across the planet that incorrect disposal causes all sorts of problems from polluting water supplies to rodent infestation and fire hazards. Just dispose of them properly, and be done with it!
Listing every possible household item that may be recycled is well beyond the scope of this article, but hopefully this has been helpful. Read and comply with recycling labels and call those in your community charged with recycling with any/all questions you may have about a particular item and how to properly recycle or dispose of it. At $BEACH, we value doing the right things AND we value doing things right! Recycling is the low hanging fruit in our move to a cleaner world, but it demands a little attention to detail to ensure we recycle correctly. Thank you in advance for doing your part!