Not everything is recyclable. Did you know that the average rate of solid waste generation per person was 4.48 pounds per day in 2015? If you think this is crazy, a report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that approximately 262 million tons of municipal solid waste were generated during the same year. Out of this, 137.7 million tons went to the landfills. It’s because of this alarming rate that recycling is taking center stage in almost every state. We all know that garbage goes somewhere. However, in our efforts to implement the three Rs (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle), we find ourselves confused over which items should go to the recycle bin. This is what waste managers call “Optimistic or aspirational recycling.” Today’s article demystifies the myths from the facts to give you a list of six things you’re probably recycling incorrectly.
1. Plastic Bags
Most people use plastic bags to stuff recyclable items such as glass, bottles and other waste, and then toss them in the recycling. But, the bags should not be thrown in the recycling cart. Not only do plastic bags clog or jam recycling machinery, but they also kill sea life and wildlife.
Some states have introduced a ban or a limit to curb the widespread use of plastic bags in a bid to conserve the environment.
Opt for reusable shopping bags instead. They are biodegradable, durable and even stylish.
2. Is Coffee Cup Recyclable?
Admittedly, it’s really easy to think that coffee cups are recyclable. After all, they look like paper. What most people don’t know is that they are lined with a thin film of polyethylene which prevents the coffee from messing up the cup.
Putting coffee cups together with recyclable items contaminates them, and thus sending the whole package to the landfills. Ditch the cups and bring your own coffee mug. Even better, take coffee at the coffee shop.
3. Used Diapers
So, this might surprise you. But, there are people out there who are actually putting dirty diapers in the recycling cart. While it’s understandable that diapers look like they are recyclable, the truth is that they aren’t.
Disposable diapers are made of mixed materials, including plastic. Plus, they are full of human waste. One-use diapers are becoming an eyesore and people should revert to using the reusable cloth type, don’t you think?
Diapers are not recyclable unless you get the biodegradable ones, and should go straight in the trash.
4. Pizza Boxes
The mouthwatering cheesy pizza is oily. And, once the grease seeps into the cardboard boxes, they lose their marketability and value to buyers.
However, pizza boxes can be recycled. Depending on your location, some places might accept the greasy pizza box. Otherwise, you can rip off the non-greasy parts to recycle and throw out the rest.
According to the executive director of the National Recycling Coalition, a few leftover crumbs in the pizza boxes is not a big issue.
5. Shredded Paper
This might come as a shocker. But, did you know that paper is sorted according to its grade? This is actually based on the length of the fiber that comes with the paper. The moment you shred paper, you shorten the fiber, thus reducing its quality and market value. In return, this negatively impacts the resale value.
Another issue with shredded paper is that they end up being mixed. There is the high-grade paper like printer paper and low-grade paper such as magazines. Some recyclers won’t accept mixed grade paper, and this again gets dumped in the landfills.
This goes on to show that paper shredding is more of “downcycling” than it is recycling. Although most documents are shredded to protect sensitive information, it’s important to note that good paper is worth more than shredded paper.
6. Styrofoam Including Yogurt Cups and Other Food Containers
Generally, plastics are numbered according to their level of difficulty when it comes to recycling. A higher number means it’s very difficult to recycle. Styrofoam, in simple words, is expanded polystyrene which is mostly used to manufacture disposable food containers and yogurt cups.
Plastics numbered three to seven are common and were once acceptable by recycling companies. The number of plastic is normally indicated inside the triangle at the bottom of the container. A major drawback, however, is that recycled plastic has limited applications because of its low quality.
All images via Pixabay