As the planet struggles with pollution and global warming, the calls for radical change are louder and more apparent than ever. Everyone must do what they can to preserve what we call home for billions of people. Manufacturers and consumers have a responsibility to take better care of the environment and their surroundings.
Small tasks like sorting your trash and responsibly disposing of it may seem like a small contribution, but it can make a difference in the long run. If you're genuinely interested in how to recycle properly, you need to go a little deeper.
Using proper recycling procedures can make a difference in your impact on the environment.
It’s imperative to keep in mind that every municipality is different, and you should check with your state and local waste company for their recycling guidelines and policies. Guidelines can change from city to city, which is what makes recycling so tricky. The information in this article offers general recycling guidelines and suggestions.
Plastic Bags Can’t Always Be Recycled
It's a surprise for most people that you shouldn't recycle plastic bags curbside. While many stores offer a plastic bag recycling program, that recycling rate is still quite low. They are the 'poster child' for plastic pollution, so you would think they are the first item you should recycle.
But, plastic bags are the leading contaminant in recycling loads. They tangle the recycling facility machinery and shut down the equipment. Besides the havoc they cause in the recycling plants, the grocery bags dissolve into potentially harmful microplastics. They can also cause harm to animals when ingested.
Plastic bags have posed such a challenge to recycling facilities that Griselda Guillen, a Montgomery County recycling center employee says:
"When plastic bags full of recyclables arrive at the facilities, workers are not allowed to open the bags. That means the entire bag, even if it's full of water bottles, is considered trash."
Not only should you not recycle plastic bags curbside, but you should also not bag your recyclables. Just dump them loosely into the correct bins. A more lasting solution to the plastic bag menace would be to buy some canvas bags and get some reusable containers that you can use in place of the plastic bags.
It's not just the plastic bags that are a problem but also sandwich bags, plastic wrapping, bubble wrap, and other materials that don't pass the poke test. The poke test is a general way to determine whether a type of plastic belongs in the recyling bin or waste bin. If you can poke your finger through the plastic, the plastic is too soft to be recycled.
Do Not Recycle Small Items
When it comes to how to be more eco-friendly, it's tempting to recycle as many plastic and recyclable items as you can get your hands on. But you should fight the urge to throw single-use things into the recycling bin as much as possible unless your recycling program states they accept these items. Some small items you should avoid recycling include plastic utensils, straws, coffee pods, and paperclips. Generally, don't recycle anything smaller than a credit card. Shredded paper is okay, but these items are too small to be sorted and often jam the recycling equipment.
On average, it is estimated that these small items can jam the equipment and shut down machines up to 15 times per day.
Pro Tip: Check out Waste Management’s Recycling Guide to learn general guidelines related to cycling, but always check with your local recycling program if you’re unsure if any items can be recycled in your area.
Empty, Dry, and Clean
It's not enough that you put every recyclable into the right container. If you care about how to recycle properly, you have to go a step further and ensure that the recyclables you put into the bins are clean and dry.
Food waste can contaminate recyclables, making them useless. Your recyclables should be clean enough to use again, and if not, you should ensure it is scrapped out and dried. Cleaning out the glass jars and recyclable plastic also deters rodents that might ransack the recycling bin when you place it by the curb for curbside recycling. Be sure to never recycle yard waste, learn how to make a compost bin and take it to the composting container.
Recycling Paper and Cardboard
Although cardboards are recyclable, grease can damage the cardboard and make it impossible to recycle. You can recycle all clean paper and clean, flattened cardboard boxes. You can go further and remove the tape and any plastic wrap on the cardboard to ease the recycling process. For cereal boxes, be sure to throw away the plastic bag on the inside in the trash bin. Most take-away cardboard boxes, though recyclable, are contaminated with grease and should be placed in a normal trash bin or compost bin, though some municipalities are now accepting cardboard with grease stains, due to the sheer amount in circulation. Yet another reason to check with your local recycling guideliens.
Be an Advocate for Change
Besides recycling properly, you should be an advocate for change by reducing your overall use. Be mindful of how you purchase products and aim to purchase from manufacturers that use recyclable cardboard packaging. Do this, and you’re one step closer to living a zero-waste lifestyle.
Recycling isn't the responsibility of consumers alone. Manufacturers have played a significant part in creating single-use and non-recyclable items, and it is upon them to step up and promote recycling by adopting recycled materials and packaging for their products, which is why we created our Packaging Eco-mmitment. SAMBAZON is committed to achieving plant-based and post-consumer recycled packaging for all USA retail Açaí products products by 2025.
Check out more information on our Packaging Eco-mmitment in our blog.
- Earth Day: 7 Tips to Recycle Better. https://www.earthday.org/7-tips-to-recycle-better/
- Chariot Energy: How to Recycle Properly. https://chariotenergy.com/chariot-university/how-to-recycle-properly/
- Department of Ecology Washington: Recycle Right: How Empty is Empty Enough? https://ecology.wa.gov/Blog/Posts/June-2019/Recycle-Right-How-empty-is-empty-enough-How-clean
- Clearance Solutions: How to Recycle More Effectively. https://chariotenergy.com/chariot-university/how-to-recycle-properly/