ByLuria Petrucci

Sep 24, 2015

Did you know that when you put the wrong material in the wrong recycling bin, it can literally ruin the entire batch at the recycling center?

In some cases, it can shut down the plant until a repairman can fix the issue. That’s because each recycling facility processes different materials like glass and plastic very differently and they can’t always catch every inconsistency before it’s too late.

So it’s beneficial for us to make sure we’re making the process as efficient as possible! So what can and can’t you put in the Blue Recycle Bin?

Shredded Paper

Paper is definitely recyclable, but be cautious of shredded paper. Computer paper has a long fiber at the beginning of its life, but it gets shorter and shorter with each new recycled life. A single piece of paper can be recycled up to eight times before that fiber is too short to hold.

When you shred a piece of paper, that fiber no longer can hold up to recycling. Having shredded paper mixed with regular paper actually causes problems during recycling and paper mills just won’t accept it.

Some cities require shredded paper be in a separate bag. Check with your city’s rules to know for sure. Or, tear up papers in four pieces. Check with your local hauler to determine appropriate shred size and level of contamination acceptable for recycling.

Bright Colored Paper

Bright colored paper is also an issue. They use high heat when recycling paper, and that makes a bright red piece of paper release it’s color which affects the white paper around it. Think… red sock in a load of whites….

We recently talked about not recycling pizza boxes that have grease on them because it can contaminate the entire batch in the recycling center. Grease doesn’t play nicely with cardboard recycling. But it’s not just pizza boxes you should watch out for. ANY cardboard, paper plate or napkin that has food or grease on it – for the sake of the batch, you don’t want to put it in the blue bin.

Plastic Bags

Plastic bags can’t be recycled in most municipal recycling programs because they often wrap themselves around and in the equipment, making the entire plant shut down to dig the bag out. That’s why some states have banned them all together, and other states choose to charge the customer extra for them. But, just because one party won’t recycle them doesn’t mean end-of-story. Retailers are beginning to offer recycling collection bins in stores so first check near the front of the store and also check around for options in your area. If you find yourself with lots of plastic bags around the house, store them and then reuse them. Better yet, take a small step and use paper bags or reuseable bags if you have them.

Plastic Lids

Plastic lids are usually made with Plastic #5, or polypropelene. Until recently the plastics recycling industry was not able to effectively recycle bottles with caps. We were told to remove the cap. But good news! Recycling collection and processing technology has improved and demand for the recyclable material has increased. Bottles are ground into flake before being vigorously washed in the recycling process. The washed cap material is then separated from the bottle material during a water bath float/sink process. The PET bottle material will sink; the PP cap material will float. Both materials are then recycled into new items.

Some cities still request that you separate them and put the caps in the trash. So be sure to check!

Broken Glass

Broken glass is something that always goes in the trash and should be bagged separately. Don’t put it with your other glass. Not only is it dangerous to the people working at the center, it actually causes issues for them to separate the tiny broken pieces into the right color batch, which is important for the process.

What #SmallSteps are YOU taking? Leave a comment below!
For great ideas on recycling check out the following articles and guides:

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By Luria Petrucci

Luria hosts both Earth911TV and GeeksLife. You can find her at the intersections of fun, green living, technology and the geeky lifestyle. She enjoys learning alongside you on how to make life better, easier, greener and more efficient!