One of the greatest ways to reduce our carbon footprints on an individual or household basis, and one of the easiest, is to recycle.
Indeed, Americans create 254 million tons of waste every year, according to the EPA, and if all the recyclable materials in that waste stream were properly disposed of, about $7 billion worth of resources wouldn’t wind up in landfills. Most people do put out their recycling for their municipal services to cart away -- but what more can you do to improve the recycling process? Without knowing it, many people recycle improperly. Learning how to avoid mistakes can ensure that more waste is properly recycled for a better and cleaner planet.
Check out this list of common recycling mistakes to make sure that you haven’t been unwittingly making them:
- To recycle, or not to recycle bottle caps? For some reason, most people think that the plastic caps on bottles are not recyclable, but that is not the case. At least anymore. According to Do Something, Americans throw out 25 million plastic bottles every hour, but the caps aren’t often with them. Make sure to keep the cap and the bottle together for maximum recycling results. (Note: there are still places that can't recycle plastic caps with the bottle, so please check with your local hauler to see if caps can be recycled in your area).
- One of the most common recycling mistakes people make is throwing dirty cardboard and paper into the recycling bin -- out of the 69 million tons of paper thrown out every year, it only takes small amounts of dirty or greasy paper to ruin large batches of recyclables.
- The glossy paper of magazines and coupons can in fact be recycled. Magazine Publishers of America notes that just 20% of magazines are recycled, so don’t forget to put them out for curbside pickup.
- One of the most important things you can do in terms of recycling is to sort it out properly before you put it out on the curb. Keep fiber products like paper separate from plastic and glass.
- Every year, Americans throw out 100 billion plastic grocery bags. Unfortunately, local recycling plants don’t tend to accept them, but many grocery stores offer receptacles in which you can return their plastic shopping bags. Try to reuse them as much as possible, and bring reusable bags to the store.
- Over 87% of Americans have access to a curbside or drop-off paper recycling program -- there is no reason not to recycle!
- People also often forget to do their recycling homework. Depending on where you live and what recycling program you have access to, you may be able to recycle things you didn’t know you could. Do your homework before you recycle. For example, foam packaging. Believe it or not, your area’s pack-and-ship store most likely accepts foam peanuts for reuse.
- Don’t include shredded paper in your recycling. Although paper is one of the most recyclable items out there (it has a recycling rate of 60% in the U.S.) the shredded stuff is very difficult to get facilities to accept, since it isn’t compatible with plant machinery.
- Frozen Food Boxes are another thing that can’t get recycled -- those paperboard boxes are designed for the freezer, so they have a coat of plastic polymer sprayed on them. That prevents the box from properly breaking down in the recycling process.
We apply these recycling best practices to our junk removal services everyday, and now that you know these common recycling mistakes, we encourage you to apply them to your own household! Together, we can change the world and our habits, and make recycling a natural and necessary part of our lives.