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Recycle or Throw Out: What Goes in the Trash & What Does Not

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As recycling technology has improved over the past decade, it has led to some confusion regarding what can and cannot be recycled. Can you throw plastic bags in the recycling bin? Do you have to wash out jars and bottles before recycling? What about Styrofoam and used paper towels? These tips can help you better understand what is recyclable and what should be tossed into the trash.

Plastic Bags

Although most recycling facilities have the ability to recycle plastic bags, most prefer that they not be included in a recycling container other than those designed for plastic bags. Bags can wrap around and jam recycling equipment and they can contaminate paper bales, according to some recycling companies. Instead of tossing them into your recycling bin, take them to specialized locations for recycling. Many grocery and department stores now have bins available for plastic bag recycling.

Plastic Bottle Caps

Although caps and plastic bottles are made from different types of plastic, both are recyclable. Keep the cap on the bottle as a loose cap can slip through the sorting lines at a recycling facility and end up in the trash accidentally. Separated caps are also difficult to spot as the recyclable material is sorted going into the machinery.

Styrofoam

In most cases, Styrofoam is still not recyclable. Styrofoam, which is actually expanded polystyrene, can be contaminated easily. Since recycling facilities do not deep clean the items they process, dirt can be embedded into the recycling material. Styrofoam is also a petroleum product, making it flammable and difficult to break down. However, some recycling companies do have special Styrofoam recycling technology, so you should check with your recycling center to know if they accept Styrofoam.

Although people don’t tend to have a ton of Styrofoam piling up, they are more likely to accumulate a ton of it when they are moving or renovating. This is because it is in the packing supplies or in the boxes of new appliances. If you ever find yourself in this situation and cannot find a place to recycle it, make sure that you get a trash bin from a company like Kingston Skips that specializes in disposing of different types of rubbish so that you can make sure that it is properly taken care of.

Pizza Boxes

Most people believe that pizza boxes, which often have the recyclable symbol imprinted on them, can be tossed into the recycling bin. However, most programs do not accept pizza boxes due to the food and grease that can accumulate on the box. In fact, most food containers that contain greasy foods are not recyclable, such as Chinese take-out boxes. Because materials are not cleaned at the recycling center, you should rinse food residue from jars and bottles as much as possible. The jar or bottle does not have to be spotless, but most of the food left on the inside should be rinsed. Used napkins and paper towels are not recyclable for the same reasons.

Juice and Milk Cartons

Although juice and milk cartons are mostly made of paper, they often have a thin coating on the outside. In addition, some juice containers have an aluminum foil lining to keep the juice fresher. Although all three of those items are recyclable, it can be difficult for the center to separate them. Check with your recycling center to be sure that they have the equipment available to separate the different components from juice and milk cartons.

Recycling is one of the best ways to protect the environment. By understanding what is and is not recyclable, you will not only make it easier on those who must collect and process recyclable items, you can also make adjustments in your daily life, avoiding those items that are not recyclable in order to reduce landfill waste.


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