You think it ought to be recycled. You want to do the right thing. So you toss it in the recycling bin.
There’s now a fancy term for that: aspirational recycler.
But what if you’re wrong? The more unrecyclable stuff in a load of recyclables, the better the chance that the whole thing goes to the landfill, wasting everybody’s time and effort.
In the recycling business, that’s called contamination. It’s become an even bigger issue since China began cracking down on the types of recyclables and the degree of contamination it will accept for processing.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans recycle 66 million tons of trash a year. About a third of that is exported, and most of that had been going to China until that country changed its rules last year. Now waste collectors are scrambling to find new markets to keep the recycling momentum going.
All the aspirational recyclers aren’t helping things. Although standards differ from place to place – and you need to check with your local authorities – The New York Times has helpfully published a list of six things you’re probably recycling wrong:
- Pizza Boxes. If the grease has soaked into the cardboard, recyclers don’t want it. But if the bottom of the box looks OK, tear it off and put that part in the bin.
- Disposable coffee cups. Yes, it’s paper, but the fine coating of polyethylene that helps it hold liquid probably means the recycler will toss it in the trash if you don’t.
- Yogurt cups. Because of China’s ban on used plastics, it’s much harder to recycle plastics number 3 to 7. Check the number, then check your with your collector.
- Dirty containers. Even if the plastic number is all right, food waste, oily residue and those last drops of milk cause problems. Rinse everything out.
- Plastic bags. They can jam up the sorting machinery at the recycling warehouse. Many grocery stores take them separately, unless you and your dog are already reusing them.
- Dirty Diapers. Do we really need to explain?
At Echo Environmental, we’re all about recycling. Luckily, we know exactly what we want and how best to handle it. Call us and we’ll recycle you right.