Pop Quiz: Can That Be Recycled? The Bathroom Edition

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Most of us have recycling down to a science in the kitchen. Common food packaging items like water bottles and cereal boxes seem like a no-brainer. But what about other rooms in the house? To test your recycling knowledge, Earth911 put together a pop quiz about recycling items in a place you may never have considered: the bathroom.

Scroll through to take the quiz and prove your recycling prowess. Even for the most seasoned recyclers, some of the answers may surprise you!

1. What percentage of people report they don’t recycle any items from the bathroom?

A) 20%
B) 40%
C) 60%
D) 80%

Photo courtesy of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.

Photo courtesy of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.

Answer — B) 40%

According to a recent study commissioned by the Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies, a whopping 40 percent of Americans toss plastic bottles from the bathroom (such as those used to package shampoo, conditioner and lotion) in the trash can rather than the recycling bin.

Why do so many Americans skip recycling in the bathroom? According to the study, many consumers either don’t think about recycling in the bathroom or don’t realize bathroom items are even recyclable.

To remind people that many products we use in the bathroom every day are indeed recyclable, Johnson & Johnson launched its Care to Recycle campaign on Tumblr — chock-full of information, tips and resources that are easily shareable and are intended to help people be better bathroom recyclers.

2. Plastic bottles found in the bathroom are different from those used for beverages like water or soda.

A) True
B) False

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com/Steven Depolo

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com/Steven Depolo

Answer — B) False

Most plastic bottles you’ll find in the bathroom are made from plastic #1 (PET) or #2 (HDPE) — the same resins used for water bottles and milk jugs.

PET and HDPE are not only the most common resins used for bottles but also the most commonly accepted forms of plastic for recycling. So, the same instinct that drives you to toss that empty water bottle in the blue bin should be in full swing after using that last bit of shampoo or mouthwash.

3. Band-Aid boxes are commonly accepted in recycling programs.

A) True
B) False

Photo courtesy of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.

Photo courtesy of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.

Answer — A) True

The glossy, lightweight boxes used to package your favorite bandages are made from what’s technically known as paperboard — which is readily accepted in curbside programs nationwide.

More than 85 percent of the U.S. population has access to paperboard recycling, but be sure to check with your local curbside program first before tossing Band-Aid boxes in the blue bin.

While you’re thinking about paper recycling in the bathroom, don’t forget your toilet paper rolls! Just like paper towel rolls, they’re made from cardboard and are readily recyclable.

4. I need to squeeze out every bit of shampoo before recycling a shampoo bottle.

A) True
B) False

Photo courtesy of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.

Photo courtesy of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.

Photo courtesy of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.

Photo courtesy of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.

Answer — B) False

While it’s not technically necessary to remove every last bit of shampoo before recycling your bottle, it’s a good idea to give the inside a quick rinse before tossing it in the bin. Labels are generally OK, so don’t worry about wasting extra elbow grease trying to peel those off.

5. The pumps found on plastic bottles are recyclable.

A) True
B) False

Photo courtesy of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.

Photo courtesy of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.

Answer — B) False

Unfortunately, because the pumps on bottles of hand soap, face wash and other common bathroom products are made from multiple components, most cities do not accept them for recycling.

That’s no reason to trash that bottle, though. Simply remove the pump before recycling a bottle, then put the bottle in your recycling bin and the pump in your garbage.

6. The plastic wrap around my toilet paper, cotton balls and diapers is not recyclable.

A) True
B) False

Answer — B) False

The plastic wrap used on common bathroom products like toilet paper and cotton balls is commonly made from plastic #2 — just like plastic grocery bags — or plastic #4, which is also used for shrink-wrap and the coating for milk and juice cartons.

Although plastic bags are not commonly collected in curbside recycling programs, most grocery and retail stores provide drop-off bins at entrances and checkout areas for customers to recycle their used bags.

Just be sure to look for a location that collects a wider variety of “plastic film” or “plastic bags and wraps,” as most of them do. These stores will gladly take your wrap for recycling.

7. Should I remove plastic bottle caps before recycling?

A) Yes
B) No
C) It depends

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com/Bridget Benton

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com/Bridget Benton

Answer — C) It depends

Most plastic bottles are made from plastics #1 or #2, but their caps are most commonly made from polypropylene, or plastic #5. These different types of plastic melt at different temperatures during the recycling process and therefore need to be processed separately.

Bottle caps can also pose a challenge for recyclers during processing. When bottles are crushed for shipment, caps can shoot off at high speeds, causing a safety hazard for recycling workers.

For years, recycling programs across the country have told their residents that plastic bottle caps could not be recycled curbside and should instead be disposed of in the garbage bin for these reasons. But that is changing — and fast.

Modern recycling technology has basically solved the projectile cap issue, and a growing number of communities are educating residents to leave their caps on. As long as your local recycling stream accepts plastic #5, you should be able to leave the caps on your bottles, but be sure to check with your local curbside program first.

Editor’s Note: Earth911 partners with many industries, manufacturers and organizations to support its Recycling Directory, the largest in the nation, which is provided to consumers at no cost. Care to Recycle is one of these partners.

Featured image courtesy of Flickr.com/KairosPhotography

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Mary Mazzoni

Mary Mazzoni

Mary is a lifelong vegetarian and enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, biking and relaxing in the park. When she’s not outside, she’s probably watching baseball. She is a former assistant editor for Earth911.
Mary Mazzoni