Many people feel good about their recycling, but do you recycle responsibly when it comes to the items you throw in the recycle bin?
Most people I talk to have said they would like to do their part and help the environment. When you ask what they are already doing, almost everyone says they recycle at home. Recycling is a wonderful first step. But we also need to make sure we
According to the EPA:
Putting items in the recycling bin that can’t be recycled can contaminate the recycling stream. After these unrecyclable items arrive at recycling centers, they can cause costly damage to the equipment. Additionally, after arriving at recycling centers, they must be sorted out and then sent to landfills, which raises costs for the facility. That is why it is important to check with your local recycling provider to ensure that they will accept certain items before placing them into a bin. Some items may also be accepted at retail locations or other at local recycling centers.Src: https://www.epa.gov/recycle/frequent-questions-recycling
How can you make sure you recycle responsibly? There are a few steps that you can take at home to work on this process.
Originally Published On: February 12, 2019
Last Updated On: June 17, 2020
Check with Your Local Recycling Facility
Who Picks up Your Curbside Recycling?
The first step to recycle responsibly is to find out who does your curbside pick up. Sometimes this is through the same company as your trash pickup, other places it’s done through the city or county, and others are their own company.
Contact Your Recycling Facility
Check out the website for your company. Many will have a basic list of what they can accept at the curb. Most companies have a list of items that can’t be picked up. Ours even has a printable PDF that can be placed near your recycling bin inside.
If anything is unclear, try to find the contact information. See if there’s an email or phone number. I prefer email so I can write it all out and make sure I am not forgetting any questions.
Learn About Your Local Facility
A few questions to ask:
- What can be recycled?
- Does anything need to be separated?
- Which plastic “numbers” can be recycled?
- Can you recycle plastic grocery bags?
- Is there anything that can’t be recycled?
- Bonus: ask for a tour of the facility!
General Rules to Recycle Responsibly
Read the Labels
More and more products are using the same recycling label with all the information you need to know. (View More Here) Make sure to do as the label says, whether it’s to rinse, replace the cap, remove a lid, etc.
Keep Items Loose
It’s so easy to grab a bunch of recyclable items, throw them in a bag, and put that in the recycling bin. When you do this, though, it makes it difficult for the items to be sorted. Recycling facilities prefer the items to be loose when they are placed in the bin.
Flatten any cardboard boxes, milk jugs, etc. to save space in the recycling bin. This also takes up less space in the collection truck, meaning they can visit more homes before driving back to the facility which cuts down on gas.
Not Recyclable at Curbside
Many items that can be recycled, just not with your curbside pickup. If you have a specific item that you constantly need to recycle, then you may be able to ask your local facility when you contact them with other questions.
A wonderful resource for locating a recycling facility is Earth911.com. When you visit the website click on “Where to Recycle” at the top. You can enter your zip code and the item you need to dispose of. This will give you a list of locations that you can take your materials.
NEVER Place in Recycling Bins
- Garden hoses
- Sewing needles
- Bowling balls
- Food or food-soiled paper
- Propane tanks or cylinders
- Aerosol cans that aren’t empty
- Household hazardous waste
- Syringes, broken glass, and broken light bulbs
When in Doubt, Throw it Out!
I hate adding to the landfill, but as you can see, there are only certain materials that can be accepted, especially at the curbside. Entire batches of recycling are considered “contaminated” and not accepted when the wrong materials are added to the curbside recycling bins. It can also damage machines and potentially pose a safety risk for those who work at the facility.