Life is crazy. And in the midst of chaos, we often forget what most consider “small things.” Like recycling for example—when lives are busy, we don’t spend so much time mulling over the environmental impact of a gum wrapper missing the trash bin.
But when we do make those efforts to reduce and reuse, some efforts are lost to mistake.
1. Plastic Bags
If you’ve ever patted yourself on the back for recycling a plastic bag, you should know your mind’s in the right spot, but you probably didn’t do anything impactful! Plastic bags require a specialized process that other plastic compounds are exempt from while recycling. The best way to recycle these bags is to A.) not use them at the grocery store, or B.) reuse them over and over once you’ve brought them home. However, some stores, like ShopRite do offer plastic bag recycling bins. Look for one the next time you’re out shopping!
2. Removing labels
A common misconception on recycling bottles, cans, and packaging materials is that one must remove the label before discarding. But this step is completely unnecessary! While an adhesive label makes up a very small percentage of a product, it can certainly be recycled.
3. Removing caps
Another misconception, perhaps more so than removing labels, is the supposed need to remove the caps on bottles, glass, or plastic. While a handful of facilities are not equipped to recycle bottles with the caps on, this should not dissuade you from placing a bottle in the appropriate bin.
4. Shredded paper
It may seem like a fine idea to toss shredded paper into a recycling bin—but more times than not, shredded paper cannot be recycled due to thin strips falling through cracks at treatment plants. Instead, many recycling facilities will accept shredded paper in a bag that is labeled, “shredded paper.”
5. Food packaging
If you’re in the habit of tossing your pizza boxes and take-out containers into the recycling bin, think twice. Greasy food that comes into contact with a porous recyclable like cardboard impedes the recycling process, making it almost impossible to recycle.
6. Not washing your recyclables
Be honest. How often do you rinse our your recyclable before they hit the bin? It’s important these materials are the cleanest before they enter a facility. You don’t have to place two weeks’ worth of wine bottles, soup, and soda cans in the dishwasher—just make sure they’re well-rinsed.
7. White paper only
Growing up in school, you might have noticed the “white box” or bin by the trash can, exclusively reserved for scraps of white paper. Colored memos, sheets of graph paper, pieces of construction paper—most have been told that only white paper is recyclable.
But that’s ridiculous! ALL paper can be recycled, recolored, and redistributed for a multiverse of use. Colored memos? In the bin. Sheets of graph paper? In the bin. Pieces of construction paper? In the bin!
And when in doubt—Google if your item is recyclable.