Remember when you learned about the 3 R’s – reduce, reuse, recycle – in school? Did you realize then how important those three R’s would be later in life? Probably not! Most of us just learned it, and then poof, out of sight out of mind.
So…here is a refresher on how and what to recycle!
I love to recycle! But am I doing it right? Am I recycling enough or am I recycling too much?
An easy list of things to NEVER recycle – food waste (or items with food waste on them – make sure to rinse!), yard waste, disposable diapers, cloth diapers, plastic wrap, wood, cloth or clothing, trash. Plastic shopping bags typically cannot be recycled in the home containers, they need to be collected and taken to your local grocery store to recycle (they often have containers outside to place them in.)
Many city recycling programs have websites full of information that you can look up for how to easily recycle in your city. The information provided was found from my local waste management site, for California – so be sure to check your site for do’s and don’ts that may be specific for your area.
In Sacramento, all recyclable materials – plastic, metal, paper and more – can be put into one single bin because they have an innovative sorting technology that allows them to recover three times as much recyclable materials as they could previously.
I found a great do’s and don’t list at this link for my area - http://www.wm.com/customer-service/residential-recycling-faq.jsp?zip=95628
Here is an at a glance view on items that you can and cannot recycle
· Corrugated cardboard (boxes)
· Office paper (all colors)
· Paperboard (cereal boxes)
· Paper cardboard dairy/juice cartons (in limited areas only)
· Unsolicited direct mail (even window envelopes are okay)
· Phone books
· Aluminum cans
· Foil and aluminum bakeware
· Steel cans and tins (rinsed-out soup cans, veggie cans, coffee cans, etc.)
· Wire coat hangers
· Empty aerosol cans
· Clear glass (rinsed mayonnaise containers, pasta sauces, pickle jars, etc.)
· Brown amber glass typically used for beer
· Green bottles typically used for wine
· Plastic containers can often be recycled but make sure it’s clean! Does that peanut butter jar still have some remnants sticking to the side? Don't recycle it until it's clean!
· Plastic products labeled Code 1 and Code 2 are widely accepted at recycling facilities. These typically include soft drink and soda bottles; plastics from cereal boxes; containers for salad dressing, vegetable oil, and peanut butter; oven-ready meal trays; butter and margarine tubs; and containers for laundry detergent and some household cleaners.
· Waxed paper
· Food-contaminated paper (such as a cheese-encrusted pizza box)
· Mixed metal and paper (like stapled paper – just remove the staple and the paper can be recycled)
· Food-contaminated metals (like a half-eaten can of beans – rinse out the beans and the can is good to recycle!)
· Automotive parts
· Plumbing parts
· Paint cans with wet or dried-on paint
· Any glass contaminated with stones, dirt and food waste
· Ceramics, such as dishware, ovenware, and decorative items
· Heat-resistant glass, such as Pyrex
· Mixed colors of broken glass
· Mirror or window glass
· Metal or plastic caps, corks or lids
· Light bulbs
· Cathode-ray tubes (CRTs) found in some televisions and computer monitors (See our Other Waste section for how to properly recycle electronics)
· Municipalities differ on whether to accept products labeled with Code 4 and Code 5. These typically include squeezable bottles, bread wrappers, frozen food bags, dry cleaning bags, yogurt containers, syrup bottles, ketchup bottles, some straws, and prescription bottles.
· Plastic grocery and produce sacks are commonly, but not always, made from plastic types 2 or 4. These bags are often collected in barrels at grocery stores.
· Plastic products labeled with Code 3, 6, or 7 are less-often accepted for recycling. These typically include window cleaner and dishwashing detergent bottles, some shampoo bottles, cooking oil bottles, clear food packaging, plastics used in most blister packs, disposable coffee cups, polystyrene, plastic egg cartons, aspirin bottles, and compact disc cases.
Some interesting facts about recyclable materials (visit www.thinkgreen.com/resrecycling for more information)
Paper production represents 1.2% of the world’s totally economic output yet it makes up more than 40% of landfills!
The scrap value of the 36 billion aluminum cans Americans discarded in one year alone was about $600 million. Apart from the economic impact, the environmental savings of recycling metal are enormous. Recycling steel and tin cans, for example, saves 74% of the energy needed to produce them in the first place.
Glass is endlessly recyclable, and most glass bottles and jars produced in the United States now contain at least 25% recycled glass – which also requires 75% less energy to produce than glass made from new materials. One important thing to keep in mind as you recycle glass is that even small amounts of some materials (like ceramics) mixed in with glass can contaminate entire loads.
Did you know that every year we produce enough plastic film in this country to shrink-wrap Texas? Or that Americans discard 38 billion plastic water bottles every year? While plastic offers the advantages of being flexible and lightweight, manufacturing it consumes fossil resources and contributes waste to our environment. One important thing to keep in mind as you recycle plastics is that cleanliness is essential. One dirty product, or one with food waste still in it, can contaminate an entire bale containing thousands of pounds of collected plastics.
I found that I am actually over-recycling. I need to be better about rinsing all food waste from containers prior to recycling. I didn’t know that a single piece of contaminated recyclable material can ruin an entire bail of recyclables! I would hate to be the cause of that! I also need to check the number better on my plastic containers. I love to recycle! And I love that my recycling bin fills up more quickly than my garbage bin! Happy Green Recycling!