Recycling Right: What Not to Put in the Blue Bin

Recycling Right: What Not to Put in the Blue Bin

by Ilana Nevins, Eco Coalition Editor

Recycling is often regarded as the greener alternative to throwing things in the trash, however; unless done correctly it can do much more harm than help. Paper and plastic items are some of the most commonly recycled items, but a few guidelines are necessary to recycle them right. Below are a few of the most important everyday items that should avoid the recycling bin.

Although paper is generally a recycle-ready item, in certain states it is advised against recycling it. Paper retains its value in its fiber length. Therefore, when it is shredded its ability to be recycled diminishes. Those who often shred paper are advised to either rip paper a few times by hand or find a nearby recycling center that will accept shredded paper when bagged separately. Also, brightly colored paper can destroy a whole batch of recycled paper. However, lighter tones can often be recycled effectively and should be considered first when opting for a colorful display.

Not only in the office, but in the kitchen too, paper and recycling do not always mix well. Paper coffee cups are generally banned from recycling because of their plastic coating to prevent leakage. A better alternative is to use reusable cups or find a coffee shop that supplies cups with plant-based coating, which can then be composted. Pizza boxes, while by themselves are perfectly suitable to be recycled, are often tinted with pizza grease- incompatible with the blue bins. Additionally, paper napkins, plates, and towels must be trashed when soiled with food. Although it may appear the right thing to do to toss a slightly used napkin in the recycle, it has the potential to ruin the whole batch of recycled materials.

Plastics are also surrounded by numerous misconceptions regarding recycling. Although most plastics are stamped by the friendly triangle of arrows, this does not mean that it is recyclable. The number within the triangle dictates where a plastic should be thrown away; often #1 and 2 can be recycled but it varies accordingly to each recycling center. Plastic bags are a difficult group-rather than being recycled (they pose too many problems when mixed with the machinery) or trashed (they take up an obscene amount of landfill space and create detrimental effects on surrounding environments), the best solution is to reuse or avoid them. Plastic bottles are commonly recycled, however; remembering to remove the cap is important. Because the caps are composed of different materials than the bottles, they can cause a whole batch of recycled bottles to be rendered obsolete.

These items present a short, simplified list of the complex world of recycling. While placing something in the recycling bin can often be accompanied with feelings of being an environmentally- friendly citizen, being conscientious of what you put where is what matters most. If done consciously and correctly recycling can save precious natural resources and can help create a sustainable future.

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