Recycling Tips and Tricks

On Saturday morning, I attended a Composting 101 session hosted by Girl Scouts Troop 18180. It was awesome -- I learned so much about composting plus gained a ton of knowledge about recycling. Plus it was really cool to see these young women take on a project that can have a major impact on our communities.

I’m constantly trying to be more aware of my impact on the environment. We recycle at home and have a compost tumbler in the backyard and my New Year’s Resolution this year was to cut back significantly on using single-use coffee cups (I’m at 4 for the year, so far). But I was genuinely surprised by some of the information I learned yesterday. So I thought I would share some of my biggest takeaways from yesterday’s event.

1. The recycling symbol really means nothing for consumers.

The symbol is used at recycling facilities for sorting and unfortunately, the symbol doesn’t mean that piece is actually going to be recycled. There are a ton of restrictions the general population doesn’t know about because the only way things are recycled is if there is a market for them afterward. Meaning, someone wants to buy it. Which brings me to the next thing I learned.

2. Black plastic is not recyclable.

There is no market for it and it just ends up in the garbage -- even if you put it in the bin. The only way to change this is to stop buying it. Or come up with other ways to use it that doesn’t involve it ending up in a landfill.

Work at a restaurant? Encourage your management to stop using black to-go containers.

3. Don’t recycle your plastic bags with your at-home recycling.

I knew this one. But wanted to emphasize how terrible it is for the recycling facilities. The plastic bags ruin equipment and can put sorting at a standstill. Many grocery stores take plastic bags. That’s the best way to recycle them.

4. Also, stop taking plastic bags.

Reusable produce bags and shopping bags can be found everywhere these days. It will take some getting use to -- unloading your items in your kitchen and putting the bags back in your car. But like any new habit, you’ll get it.

5. Don’t crush any of your recycling items.

Crushing items makes it harder for them to be sorted at the recycling facility.

6. Collect all of the small items before throwing into recycling bin.

Think bottle caps, metal and plastic lids. Anything small that might fall out in transport. Put them into a larger container. They’ll get separated at the facility.

7. Don’t put recycling into bags.

Most of us use bags to hold the recycling. But once you are ready to put into your bin outside, empty it out of the bag. Many recycling facilities won’t go through the trouble of emptying it and all of that good work will likely end up right in the garbage.



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