While statistics show that around a quarter of American households do not recycle, the actions of the other 75 percent of homes are making a difference. Apart from recycling would otherwise become trash, the greatest help an average household can do to lessen their waste is to segregate their garbage into biodegradable, non-biodegradable, and recyclables.
This method, unfortunately, may be confusing to some households who must sort their garbage into these categories. Even if an item is made of recyclable materials such as paper and aluminum, for example, it does not necessarily mean it goes in the recycling bin. When you throw unrecyclable materials into the wrong bin, you’re making it harder for recycling treatment plants to sort through garbage and recyclable materials. Sometimes, you even risk damaging or destroying items that can be recycled.
If you want to practice responsible recycling, avoid throwing these items into your recycling bin and instead dispose of them the proper way.
Styrofoam& Takeout Containers
Styrofoam is a material known to be unrecyclable. It’s non-biodegradable because of its polystyrene content, and its creation and usage are harmful for the environment. On the other hand, not all plastic takeout containers cannot be recycled because of the food bits that remain in it. Food is biodegradable and, left on the takeout container for a long time, can start to rot and decompose, affecting the container it’s in.
Proper Disposal:Styrofoam cannot be recycled. Some communities have a special facility to dispose of Styrofoam, but most will eventually be disposed in landfills. It’s best to do away with Styrofoam and not patronize food businesses that use Styrofoam to decrease its presence in garbage disposals. Takeout containers can be recycled if you rinse and clean it before throwing it in a recycling bin. Make sure it is really clean, though. An oily food container has traces of food and grease and cannot be recycled.
Bubble Wrap and Plastic Grocery Bags
Some plastics are recyclable, but bubble wrap is made of a thin plastic film that cannot be recycled. It would break in the cycling machines. While some recycling plants would accept bubble wrap, not all would. The same applies to plastic bags you get from the grocery or market, since curbside recycling programs do not accept it either.
Proper Disposal: Re-use your plastic bags or bring it to a grocery store that recycles plastic bags. When used properly, plastic bags can last you a long time.
Power Cords& Electronics
All parts of a power cord are technically recyclable, but you will have to cut it open and separate every small part. It’s an impractical and time-consuming procedure. Electronic toys, gadgets, and other electronic equipment you have at home are also not allowed for curbside recycling.
Proper Disposal: Take your electronic waste and donate it to an e-recycling plant. These centers know how to responsibly dispose of electronics without harming the environment. Other businesses such as Best Buy also offer to take your electronic cords.
The metal exterior may be recyclable, but its pressurized interior and the chemical residue it contains makes it a hazardous waste. Spray cans such as whipped cream is also a danger because of the air pressure.
Proper Disposal: Check if your community has a special disposal procedure for spray cans. Otherwise, you may have to throw it in with the rest of the non-biodegradable waste. However, the spray can contains chemicals, you may need to dispose of it like you would with hazardous waste.
Disposable batteries cannot be reused, and its chemicals, corrosive nature, and electric potential could make it a hazard to recycle. You also cannot throw it in with the rest of the non-biodegradable waste because it could be a potential danger to people handling waste. Rechargeable or lithium ion batteries may even cause a fire hazard.
Proper Disposal: Dispose of batteries safely and separately. Best Buy accepts rechargeable batteries for recycling in all its stores across the United States. For non-rechargeable batteries, organizations such as Call2Recycle provide homeowners with the option to drop off or ship their batteries to be safely disposed of.
Mirrors & Hardware Glass
Glass is a recyclable material, but not all glass-based products can be recycled. Mirrors, for example, are difficult to treat because it has a reflective coating. When you melt mirrors and regular glass and mix the two together, the resulting product may render useless. Th
Proper Disposal: If your mirror is still in good condition, consider selling or donating it to someone else. Avoid recycling lightbulbs, especially compact fluorescent ones, because these contain mercury and can be a hazard for treatment centers. Glass products such as jars, bottles, and drinking glasses are fine for recycling, but if it’s broken, you may need to dispose of it carefully, so it doesn’t cut the person handling it.
Napkins, Paper Towels, and Dyed Paper
Paper towels and napkins cannot be recycled because wet tissue or napkins with food and other residue can be contaminated and affect the rest of the recyclables in the bin. Some paper towels are made from recycled paper already, which means its fibers cannot be recycled again. Papers with strong dyes may also affect the rest of the paper and discolor the rest of the recycled paper it is mixed with.
Proper Disposal: Throw your napkins and paper towels in the biodegradable bin. Most paper towels are all-natural and can easily decompose with the rest of your food.
Used Disposable Diapers
Diapers are made of paper, cotton, and plastic, but it’s not logical for treatment center workers to sort through your baby’s poop and pee just to recycle the material. Even worse is when you throw it in a recycling bin and contaminate the rest of the materials that can be recycled with your infant’s filth.
Proper Disposal: It’s a non-biodegradable and cannot be recycled, so it will end up in a landfill.
Boxes and Plastics Used to Contain Food
Cardboard food containers cannot be washed, and because they contain traces of food on it, the food will continue to decompose and affect the cardboard box itself. And even if you do wash plastic food containers, some centers might think food containers (e.g. yogurt cups) is too impractical or is an inappropriate plastic type to recycle.
Proper Disposal:Boxes can be ripped and mixed into the non-biodegradables for composting. Boxes with a waxed texture will take longer to degrade, but it will eventually. Plastic food containers, however, should be disposed in the non-biodegradable bin.
Contrary to what many think, leftovers, food scraps, and soiled food cannot be sent to recycling centers to be made into fertilizer. By mixing food bits into your recycling bin, you’re making it decompose and ruining perfectly recyclable materials. It becomes contaminated and unusable.
Proper Disposal:You can compost your food waste and turn it into organic fertilizer. Here’s a simple way to turn your biodegradable kitchen scraps into compost.
The plastic bottles of some cleaning products are safe for the recycling bin, but make sure these bottles are empty, clean, and dry. Extra liquid can be flammable or harmful for people who are recycling.
Proper Disposal:Dispose any drops of liquid still in your product bottles, clean it thoroughly, and dry it before placing it in the recycling bin. Be careful when handling bottles with liquids such as gasoline and automotive fluids, since these liquids are a hazard to dispose and clean.