Our first introduction to sustainability is often the notion of “reduce, reuse, recycle” with a lot of emphasis on recycling. While the other two are far more critical on not focused on enough, we need to talk about recycling.
Recycling is a flawed system. So many items that are thrown into our bins, never get recycled. In fact, less than 10% of all plastic made is ever recycled. The rest is litter or sits in our landfills.
And while we should focus most of our attention on reducing and reusing our plastic consumption rather than relying on recycling, there are some changes we can make to be more effective.
Most of us are making these recycling mistakes without even knowing it!
Recycling Mistakes you’re Probably Making:
1. Not checking your local area guidelines
This is something that almost everyone is oblivious to. But not every community, town, city, state, province or country is the same! It will always vary what can be recycled and where. Just a quick google search should yield guidelines to help you know what can go in your bin.
I find it helpful to print off a list of numbers and items that can be recycled and keep it by my bin. Just make sure to check your plastics to make sure they can be recycled!
2. Not cleaning and drying your recyclables
If you’re throwing a wet container or container with food in it into your bin, you’re making a HUGE mistake. If this is seen at a recycling plant, more often than not it will be sent straight to the landfill along with the rest of the lot. Because a lot of recycling plants still sort things manually, it’s not with the time and effort to separate dirty items from clean ones.
So make sure to clean your containers and let them dry before tossing them!
3. Not removing the labels
Again, as most recycling plants still sort through things manually…nobody is going to take the time to remove all the dang labels. As most things need to be separated before recycling and a lot of labels can’t be recycled anyway. Take the extra minute or two or remove all labels before recycling.
4. Recycling batteries and electronics
This may be surprising but a regular recycling plant can’t recycle electronics or batteries. That, and again we run into the sorting issue when there are things in the bins that shouldn’t be there.
Most places will have a separate facility for batteries and electronics. Be sure to check it out!
5. Recycling black plastic
Did you know black plastic can’t be recycled? Since it’s dyed, it’s unlikely to ever be made into anything else and therefore shouldn’t be put in your recycling bin. The more you know!
How many of these recycling mistakes have you been guilty of? I’ve been guilty of them all! Now that I know better, these practices have been standard and a reflex.
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