Recycling has changed over the years and become less and less profitable. 40% of the WORLD's recycling used to go to China. Since they stopped accepting from other countries in 2018, the value of recyclables has significantly dropped. There is little market for it, and the market that does exist is only for select items. Hence where this guide comes in to play.
What can I actually RECYCLE?
1. Mixed Paper & Cardboard
2. Plastic Containers #1 PET, #2 HDPE, and #5 Polypropylene ONLY
3. Metal Cans & Containers
All must be larger than a credit card in size!
What should NEVER go in a recycling bin?
1. Anything DIRTY- it can contaminate an entire truck full= goes to landfill
2. Plastics NOT labeled #1, #2, or #5
3. Soft plastics like plastic BAGS, plastic food packaging, bubble wrap- Ruins and clogs machinery & there is ZERO market for it as a recyclable material. Though, these may be available for recycling at your local grocery store, who knows if they actually get recycled since there is NO market for soft plastics. STOP using them!
4. Mixed Material Items like Milk or Food Cartons, Coffee Cups, & Padded Envelopes- these are actually a blend of cardboard, plastic, etc. and as a mixed material, it is NOT recyclable in MOST ALL municipalities.
5. Diapers, Food, or Yard Waste- ZERO organic material. If it has a smell, throw it away.
6. Pots/Pans, Machinery, Tools, Appliances- these canNOT go in your typical recycle bin but can be recycled through SA Recycling.
7. Shoes or Clothing- DONATE!
8. Electronics- Best Buy offers a recycling program for these items!
9. Aerosols- ONLY recyclable if they are no longer pressurized and completely CLEAN.
10. Shredded paper- While fully compostable, it should never be recycled as it is too small, clogs machinery, and is difficult to turn into something else. There are shredded paper services that you can contact to recycle or compost it.
If you are a Clark County resident, here is a great resource on how to dispose of a LOT of random STUFF that should NEVER go in your recycle bin.
The PROPER way to recycle:
1. Recyclables need to be EMPTY, CLEAN, & DRY!!
2. You can leave labels on (they most likely won't get recycled themselves).
3. Leave bottle caps and lids ON. If separated, they fall into the category of NOT recyclable due to their small size.
4. Aluminum Foil/Foil Coffee Pods need to be CLEAN and balled up larger than a credit card.
5. Cardboard needs to be BROKEN DOWN but tape doesn't need to be removed. If a box has excessive tape, separate the tape or throw it all away.
What does it mean for recyclables to be contaminated?
Say you threw a dirty coffee cup or greasy pizza box (which are NOT recyclable) in with all your other clean recyclables. If that dirty coffee/pizza grease got onto other plastic bottles, cardboard, paper, etc. the ENTIRE LOT could go to landfill from contamination.
Now, say YOU are a perfect recycler but YOUR neighbor throws diapers, styrofoam food containers, and coke bottles partially full in their recycle bin, THE ENTIRE TRUCK LOAD could go to landfill due to contamination.
ALL RECYCLABLES NEED to be EMPTY, CLEAN, and DRY to prevent this from happening.
Other things to Note:
Recycling facilities ONLY work if they can turn a profit off of recyclable materials. Some municipalities are even dropping recycling altogether because of the cost to run VS the cost gained. Recycling might NOT even be offered in your area due to the likelihood of contamination. I once lived in an apartment complex that didn't offer it and it blew my mind. BUT...It was a place where people tried to throw couches in the dumpster and had 100's of tenants. If they offered recycling, the business would pay for it and most everything would go to the landfill anyway due to contamination.
By being a responsible recycler, you are insuring that recycling programs continue to exist!
Don't forget the 3 R's: Recycling should always be LAST resort.
- Reducing our consumption of non-bio materials is #1 priority- particularly non-recyclable plastics that NEVER go away.
- Reusing items over and over is #2- particularly glass which is not easy to recycle due to its abrasiveness on equipment.
- THEN Recycle.
When you toss something in the recycling bin that you hope is recyclable, but aren’t sure, you’re wishcycling. The trouble with this practice is, if what you’re trying to recycle truly isn’t recyclable, you run the risk of turning vast amounts of potentially recyclable material into trash or bringing the process to a halt at the recycling center. There are no regulations who can slap a recycling symbol onto their products so just because something has it, that does NOT mean it can actually be recycled.
Checking with your local municipality for the rules as to what can be collected in YOUR area or visit the Recycling Simplified website for all U.S. regulations on recycling.
I also highly encourage you to tour a facility near you to see how it's done, as it is pretty interesting! My tour of the Southern Nevada Recycling Center was the source for this blog.