You can recycle more than you think, but some items don’t belong in your curbside bin. Recycle with the recycling line in mind every time. Many materials can be recycled, but they may require special handling or delivery to a drop-off location. Keep problem items out of curbside bins and make sure the recycling line keeps working smoothly.
Keeping up with the Trends
The Star Tribune took a look at recycling data to analyze some trends and found a mix of results. In 2013, Minnesotans on average recycled about 596 pounds of paper, metal, glass, and plastic each year, which is an 18 percent increase since 1996. Cardboard is being recycled more than ever, but plastic bottles are ending up in the garbage more often. Make sure you know what to throw to keep recyclables out of landfills and incinerators.
What’s the Problem?
The recycling collected from our homes are delivered to a recycling facility where they are sorted by both machines and people into different material categories, such as plastics, paper, metal and glass, before being sent to manufacturers that use the recyclables to make new items. You may know that some items cause problems for recycling facilities, but what does that mean for you? The recyclability of materials is affected by how items are managed. For example, shredded paper makes a huge mess at recycling facilities and may end up as garbage if not properly prepared. Place shredded paper in a closed paper bag or use a community or business shredding service that takes shredded paper to an end user instead of a facility.
Another huge problem for recycling facilities is plastic bags and other plastic films. They can get stuck in sorting machines and halt the recycling process. Plastic bags and film can be recycled, but not in your curbside bin. More than 20 times the amount of plastic bags ends up in the garbage than in the recycling. Find a drop-off location to help reverse this trend! Plastic bags recycled at a drop-off location are delivered directly to a plastics recycler, eliminating the problems they cause at recycling facilities.
Items like plastic bags and electrical cords can tangle in machinery and slow down productivity at recycling facilities. Other items that are members of the dirty dozen, like scrap metal, hazardous waste, and frozen food containers, can bring down the value of recyclables or be dangerous for workers.
Reduce and Avoid
Many items that cause problems for recycling facilities can be avoided all together. Styrofoam is a big issue, for example. It's not recycled since there is not a large enough market for it and it contains chemicals. Look for recyclable or reusable containers to avoid Styrofoam. Other items that can be avoided are large plastics and toys. Reduce the amount of these items you acquire while shopping and seek out donation and resale options instead of disposing of them.
Cutting out Contaminants
By knowing more about recycling contamination and keeping contaminants out of curbside recycling bins, we can work together to improve recycling programs. These efforts will benefit households, haulers, recycling facilities, and the greater community. Be a diligent recycler and keep items going to the right places!