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Common Recycling Mistakes and Fixes

Posted on March 11, 2017 by Matt Tomasino There have been 0 comments

Your well intentioned recycling efforts may need to be tweaked. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans only recycle about 30% out of 75% recyclable material. Don’t go through the extra effort without learning how to do it right. This way, at least you’ll know your time wasn’t wasted and the environment got the most out of your sustainable support.

Throw in the Tops

You may still be recycling plastic bottles under the notion that the caps are not recyclable. It turns out that they are and according to the Association of Post-consumer Plastic Recyclers (APR), Chairman Scott Saunders commented back in 2010,

“We want to assure recycling coordinators, MRF [material recovery facility] operators and other collectors of recyclables that plastics recyclers will process these bottles and recover the caps for recycling purposes,”

Rinse Sparingly

As municipal water becomes more scarce, especially in drought stricken areas, rinsing out all your recyclables can be unnecessary and wasteful. Most facilities use recycled water to rinse out all incoming recyclables.

However, cartons that held animal products like milk or cheese can be slightly rinsed to avoid contamination and smell. Using bathwater or collected rainwater for minor recyclable rinsing is recommended as opposed to wasting fresh tap water.

Check your local recycling guides for rinsing protocol and, if possible, avoid it at all costs.

Glossy Works

Another misconception is that you cannot recycle glossy magazines. Because of this, only 20% are reclaimed. MRF’s are now equipped to deal with glossy paper recycling. So, go ahead and recycle those old subscriptions, catalogues, and annoying junk mail pileups. Then, re-evaluate what you can read digitally to save on paper altogether.

Don’t Ruin the Batch

Another bad habit that can ruin your entire effort at recycling is mixing dirty paper and cardboard with your collection of paper recyclables. One of the biggest culprits is pizza boxes which, when covered in leftover grease and cheese and then thrown in with clean cardboard, ruins the entire stack. Either scrape off all the leftover waste from pizza and other dirty boxes or do not recycle them.

Office Recycling Location

The location of your office recycling bin is essential. According to Infrastructure News,

“A study about container proximity showed that only 28% of paper was recycled where recycling containers were centrally located, but when recycling containers were placed in close proximity (beside desks for example) to participants, 85% to 94% of all recyclable paper was recycled.”

Save Your Peanuts

If you receive a box full of foam peanuts or other packing foam, recycling is out of the question but reusing can always be applied. Either designate a bag or box to hold these toxic, ‘never-able-to-break-down-in-a-million-years’ materials for future packing or check with your local pack and ship store to see if they accept donated packing foam.

Frozen Food Faux Pas

Cardboard used for frozen food boxes are specially prepared to withstand condensation which can make regular cardboard soggy. This is done by spraying the outside of each box with a special, protective plastic or wax coating. Unfortunately, this renders the cardboard unable to be recycled as the chemical interferes with the pulping process. Therefore, try to purchase frozen food items sold in non-toxic ‘film plastics’ such as food bags or pouches.

If your product is only available in a frozen food box check your local guidelines as many MRF’s are finding ways to include them in recycling. Currently, San Diego and Phoenix accept frozen food boxes but Oklahoma City, Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon do not.

Nice Glass

Recycling glass has become so streamlined that it can take as little as thirty days to be back on a store shelf. However, not all glass is recyclable so don’t collect:

  • Light bulbs
  • Mirrors
  • Window glass
  • Pyrex products and other ‘cooking glass’
  • Glassware used in labs like beakers and test tubes

This post was posted in Blog and Green Library, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and was tagged with cardboard, glass, packaging, packing material, plastic trash, RECYCLED-UPCYCLED, Recycling, SUSTAINABLE


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Green Home is the original online ecostore, based in San Francisco, California, in the heart of both the environmental and cleantech industries. Since 1999 Greenhome.com has played its part as one of the most comprehensive online resources for greening your home and greening your business. Our company is on a mission to green the world, one person (and one business) at a time. While all of our products are eco-friendly, we are especially passionate about compostable plates, cups, bowls, cutlery & utensils, take out containers and bags.  If more businesses and individuals switched from disposable to compostable we could make a real impact on the world!

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