If you recycle, kudos to you for doing your part to reduce waste! However, make sure you’re properly recycling items like food containers to avoid contamination of the recycling stream & prevent unintentional waste and additional costs. Below are a few tips to keep in mind…
While recycling can be a great way to keep certain items out of landfills and get multiple uses out of some materials, there are also some problems that can occur during the process – especially if consumers are unaware of the recycling rules in their community or don’t understand the importance of following them. Most community recycling programs have rules in place to try to prevent inappropriate items from entering the waste stream. These rules are not arbitrary, and in fact they are very important to making the whole concept of single-stream recycling work.
Single-stream recycling has become the norm in many cities in the United States, as it makes it easier for the consumer by removing the need to sort recyclables into different containers before dropping them off or leaving them at the curb for recycling. However, some consumers assume that since they don’t need to sort their recyclables, this means just about anything can go into the bin, which is not the case in most areas. There are many different types of plastic, and only some are recyclable – or at least, only some are allowed in household collection bins. (Others may be recycled only on an industrial scale, and some are rarely accepted by any recycling facility due to the difficulty and/or expense of recycling them.)
Below are 6 tips for properly recycling food containers (the most common type of recyclables for individual households). These are general tips that are valid in most areas, but be sure to check with your local recycling facility to verify any specific rules they may have before submitting your recyclables.
- Make sure all items are rinsed and clean before going into the recycling bin. Absolutely no food, liquids, or other contamination allowed. Yes, that means that the bottom of your pizza box needs to go in the compost (or the trash). You can, however, tear-off any non-greasy parts for disposable in the recycling bin.
- Separate glass jars from their metal lids. The metal lids are usually not recyclable, but check with your city’s recycling program to be sure.
- Inquire about how to recycle the lids of plastic bottles. In bigger, mixed systems, it’s often preferred to keep them together, but many smaller programs only want the bottle, so the lid should go in the trash.
- Keep aluminum foil, plastic utensils, Styrofoam containers, plastic wrap, or plastic wrappers (including baggies and bags) OUT of the recycling bin. Those items need to go into the trash unless your recycling program specifically gives the green light. (Many chain grocery stores will accept recyclable plastic grocery bags separately.)
- If you must collect your recycling in a plastic bag, use a clear or see-through blue bag.
- Compostable plastics are great but they don’t belong in a recycling bin (and not even in a home composting bin – only industrial or commercial composting options can take these items).