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Sep 07

Think Before You Send Your Trash for Recycling

recycling cansRegaining Your Footprint

As more and more cities and towns have begun recycling programs, we are trying to undo the years of toss and throw. More than 75% of all cities and towns have some sort of recycling program underway but the difference in what is a recyclable and non-recyclable change from city to city. This might have led to a few “discussions” as to what you can toss and what you need to recycle.

Recyclables can be broken down into 3 categories; plastic, paper and metal. Soda cans are easy. They usually end up in the metal/drink can category. However, if they are not cleaned out before you dispose of it, you are creating sludge. Pizza boxes look like they should be recycled. After all, they are made from cardboard. However, the oils and spills can cause a yucky mess. This will cause problems with the cardboard which has been soaked with water. This will make the paper unusable and contaminate the entire batch of paper. The paper, when wrung out, will have giant holes and gaps in it.

Medication and syringes should not be recycled with your trash or recyclables. Hospitals, fire stations and other local centers are around where you can dispose of them. Medication should not be flushed down the toilet, either because it can enter the water supply. If you can’t find a resource to dispose of them properly, then call the nearest police or fire station.

Paint is recycled especially the latex brand of paint. Old paint or paint that was painted in oil-based paint cannot be recycled because of the chance of mercury or lead. Painted wood building material or fencing cannot be recycled either. You can check with your town or city for recyclable days or call a rubbish removal service to dispose of it for you.

Styrofoam appears to be a totally recyclable material. Styrofoam is a made from a composite of various materials. It is made from petroleum products and therefore flammable. This includes food containers and ice coolers.

Glass can be recycled but only if it has no holes or cracks in it. Pieces of glass are not recyclable because they will get mixed with other colors which make it impossible to get clear glass from this mixture.

Batteries, no matter what size, can’t be recycled. They contain mercury which makes them dangerous to put into the recycling containers. The only exception is the nickel-cadmium rechargeable can or can’t be recycled. You have to check with the manufacturer.

Milk containers, juice boxes and your disposable coffee cups are materials that you would think are recyclable. Guess what? They’re not. Coffee cups are lined with a polyethylene which is an insulator, which can’t be recycled. Milk cartons and juice boxes are mixed in with other paper products which makes the whole bin unusable.

Plastic bags should be recyclable, but they are not. Grocery stores used to teach us about the dangers of paper bags and how they were bad for the planet. Since we have gone over to plastic bags, they are becoming the biggest carbon user. When you try to recycle plastic bags, they tend to get caught up in the handles of the processing plants. Technicians then have to shut down the machinery and cut away or untangle the caught up pieces of plastic.

Before your next recycle day or another lecture from your child on how everything is your fault, learn the rules for your community. If you have non-readers, tape pictures of what goes into each recycle bin. Buy back some of the carbon footprint.

1 comment

  1. Kathryn Grace

    Thank you so much for providing this information. Here in San Francisco, which has the most comprehensive recycling/composting program of any city I’ve seen so far, Styrofoam is NOT recyclable. I suspect that is true in many municipalities as well.

    Thankfully, we do have a commercial composting facility, which means we can send ALL food stuffs, as well as pizza boxes, milk cartons and the like, to the green bins in our buildings. We can also deliver batteries and unbroken light bulbs to special receptacles in many of our stores, where they are either collected for proper disposal or sent to plants where they are dismantled for their recyclable parts. Whether the workers who handle those batteries and light bulbs are provided safe working conditions remains a bit of a mystery. Some reporters have uncovered some rather sad stories about that.

    Thank you again for pointing out how careless recycling can ruin an entire lot.

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