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The Rules of Recycling

The rules of recycling always seem to change, and they are different for each municipality. It can be hard to keep your head wrapped around all the guidelines. Here are a few major changes that have occurred with most curbside recycling programs over the last decade.


Plastic Bottle Caps

Many of us grew up being told to remove the caps on bottles before you toss them in the recycling bin. In recent updates, it has been determined that plastic screw-on caps should stay on water bottles and milk jugs. Although caps are made of different materials than the bottle, they are still both recyclable. Over the years, recycling collection and processing technology has improved, allowing for bottle caps to be effectively recycled and making recycling easier for everyone!

It turns out that plastic bottle caps are best left on the their counterparts. According to the North Sea Foundation, plastic caps are among the top five most commonly found materials littered on beaches worldwide and are deadly for sea life.

Crushing Soda Cans

So, do we really have to stomp on a soda can once we are finished with it? As fun as it is, you probably don’t have to. For single-stream recycling, where all recyclables are put into one bin and separated at a Materials Recovery Facility, aluminum cans should not be crushed. Keeping the cans intact makes it easier for the equipment to sort out the materials.

An item you could consider crushing are plastic water bottles. Prior to re-capping the bottle, many facilities recommend crushing them to release some of the air inside. This prevents the caps from shooting off the bottle when they are compressed for transport, which can pose a huge safety hazard.

Plastic Bags

Although the material itself is recyclable, plastic film (like that used for grocery bags) requires special processing equipment that isn’t available at standard recycling facilities. Putting plastic bags in the recycling bin can cause more harm than help, jamming up equipment and even shutting down an entire recycling plant.

There is a better alternative than putting plastic bags in the trashcan, where they are taken to a landfill or blown off onto the street. Many groceries have programs that collect and reuse plastic bags. Look into your local stores and see what they can do with your plastic bags!


Even if a container has the recycling symbol on it, that doesn’t always mean it’s recyclable in your city. It is very important to check your local rules and restrictions before you start recycling.


Resources:

https://www.projectaware.org/news/ugly-journey-plastic-bottle-cap http://www.wm.com/thinkgreen/what-can-i-recycle.jsp http://www.plasticsrecycling.org/education/faqs/caps-on

 

 

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Cari Oberfield