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The Do’s and Dont’s of Recycling Bins: What You Need to Know

The Do’s and Dont’s of Recycling Bins: What You Need to Know

Posted by Trashcans Unlimited on 29th Jan 2024

Taking care of the environment is no longer an option, and recycling has become a pivotal part of taking care of our home! However, not all items are suitable for the typical curbside recycling bin, and a single misplaced item can ruin your entire recycling efforts.

So, in this guide, we are going to take an in-depth look at the dos and don'ts of recycling bins and go through the items that should never go with your recycled trash. This is essential to ensuring a clean and efficient recycling stream.

We will also take a look at the appropriate recycling practices to help you contribute to reducing plastic waste's environmental impacts and advance towards a more sustainable future. However, before delving into the details, let’s look at the fundamentals of recycling.

The Key Takeaways

  1. It’s important to avoid dumping plastic bags in your recycling bins, given that they can harm the machinery used to recycle.
  2. All items that are placed in the recycling bins should be clean and uncontaminated recyclable items, such as certain plastic bottles and containers.
  3. You can further support recycling efforts by taking your recycle bins to specialized drop-off locations in your area.

The Fundamentals of Recycling

Recycling is a vital activity that reduces waste and conserves resources by collecting and processing recyclable materials into new products. So, in order to gain a better understanding of how recycling works, let’s take a look at what can and can’t go in your recycling bin and how it is recycled.

What Can You Put in Your Recycle Bin?

When it comes to recycling bin management, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides guidelines on what can be accepted by recycling programs, and, according to these guidelines, this list is the best way to separate recyclable from non-recyclable materials:

Material Recyclable Items Non-Recyclable Items
Plastic Bottles, jugs, and some containers Plastic bags, foam, and wraps
Paper Office paper, newspaper, and cardboard Soiled paper plates and napkins
Glass Bottles, jars (clear and colored) Lightbulbs, ceramics and glass panes
Metal Empty aluminum and aerosol cans Scrap metal and paint cans

By taking this list into account, you will be sure to recycle successfully, thus helping the plant become a better place. However, now that we have understood what can and can’t go into the trash, let’s look at what happens to these recycled materials once they are collected.

How are Recyclable Materials Transformed?

Once collected, the recyclable materials are taken to a material recovery facility (MRF), where they are transformed into new material that can be reused. Now let’s take a look at how this is done:

  1. Once collected, the recyclable material is sent to a specialized facility where the trash is separated by type of material on conveyor belts, either manually or automatically.
  2. Post-sorting, the materials are baled and sent to recycling plants, where they undergo various cleaning processes before being transformed.
  3. During the transformation process, these materials are either melted or cut down into new products that can be reused.

This cycle plays a crucial role in protecting the environment by conserving natural resources, transforming used products into new ones, and reducing pollution. Now let’s take a further look at some common items that could spoil this entire effort, so you can avoid recycling them.

The 8 Non-Recyclables to Avoid Putting into Recycling Bins

When it comes to recycling programs, certain items are frequently mistaken as recyclable, leading to contamination in recycling streams. So let’s take a closer look at the materials to avoid putting them into your recycling bin to prevent the contamination of recyclables.

  1. Plastic bags can damage the recycling machinery and should not be placed in recycling bins, but you can recycle them at specific collection points.
  2. Chip bags contain metallic films that are not recyclable and should be disposed of as garbage.
  3. Styrofoam is not processable by most recycling facilities and should be disposed of as garbage.
  4. Paper towels are commonly contaminated with food, oils, or cleaning products and thus cannot be recycled, so they are also thrown away in the normal trash can.
  5. Shredded paper creates challenges for sorting machines, so it should also be repurposed in craft projects or thrown away.
  6. Some food containers, especially those with a waxy or plastic coating, cannot be recycled and must be placed in the garbage.
  7. Light bulbs, electronics, and shoes require special disposal methods and should not be mixed with general recyclables.
  8. Printed materials like magazines and newspapers must be free of contaminants such as food or excessive moisture in order to be recycled.

By being mindful of these non-recyclable items, you can contribute to the effectiveness of recycling programs and aid in reducing the amount of waste misdirected to landfills. Keep in mind that there are regulations in place, so check local laws before implementing a routine.

You may be wondering: What happens to the trash that cannot be recycled? Well, let’s take a look at special disposal facilities, alternative recycling routes, and other solutions you can add to your recycling efforts in order to help the environment.

The 4 Best Ways to Dispose of Non-Recyclable Materials

There are some non-recyclable materials that cannot be disposed of in recycle bins. However, there are alternatives. So let’s take a look at a few options where you can dispose of these materials, further contributing to the health of our planet.

1) Take Your Non-Recyclable Materials to Drop-Off Locations

Most grocery retailers offer store drop-off programs for the collection of plastic bags and wraps. These locations typically have clearly marked bins near the entrance of the store where you can return clean and dry plastic bags, allowing them to be recycled properly.

Some plastics that can be taken to these drop-off locations include plastic bags that are made from polyethylene, dry cleaning bags without the paper and hangers, and bread bags that are crumb-free.

There are also drop-off facilities available for other non-recyclable materials like clothing, shoes, aluminum, metals, and styrofoam; they are just fewer in quantity. However, you can do a quick search to find one of these specialized facilities in order to further increase your recycling.

2) Look for an Alternative Recycling Route

For those without access to local store drop-off programs or looking for additional recycling options, mail-in programs and specialized services are available. Companies like TerraCycle offer mail-in recycling solutions for difficult-to-recycle materials, which may include plastic bags.

However, these services usually require the consumer to collect a specific amount of plastic material before mailing it for recycling, so do your research to ensure you comply with the guidelines provided by such programs, ensuring a successful recycling effort.

3) Reuse Your Non-Recyclable Materials

If you don’t have any recycling facilities in your area or routes that can take care of your recyclable materials, another option is to reuse your materials into new products you can cherish again. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Turn your shredded paper into craft projects you decorate your home with, like lanterns or sculptures.
  2. Hire a seamstress to transform your old clothes into new garments you can incorporate into your wardrobe.
  3. Save your plastic bags and take them to the grocery store to get more use out of the material.
  4. Use your chip bags to further fertilize your plants, given that they contain minerals that add nutrients to the soil of your most beloved greenery.

By sending your plastics to drop-off locations, taking your trash through alternative recycling routes, or reusing your trash to transform it, you will be sure to help our home become a better and healthier place.

4) Donate to Local Thrift Stores

You can also consider donating old clothes, shoes, containers, decorations, working electrodomestics, and even furniture to local thrift stores, where thousands of people look for these forgotten items to transform them into treasures.

Remember to check your local area for these stores, and they even give you money in exchange for your items, possibly opening up a new income stream for you and your loved ones, further adding to a circular and healthier economy.

However, now that we have understood what materials can and can’t be recycled, how non-recyclable materials can damage recycling streams, and how we can recycle these materials, let’s take a look at a few more considerations to help recycle successfully.

Disposal Options for Plastic Bags

How to Maintain a Clean Recycling Stream

Ensuring a contamination-free recycling stream is crucial for the efficiency of recycling plants, and when it comes to recycling plants, a lot of things can go wrong. So let’s get into how we can contribute to the efficiency of these plants in order to keep them functioning correctly:

  1. Make sure that your recyclable materials are clean, given that residue can attract pests and lead to the contamination of the entire batch of recyclables.
  2. Thoroughly dry your recyclable materials before throwing them away, given that wet items can hinder the sorting equipment and cause jams that can delay the process.
  3. The materials must be sorted, separating the plastics, metals, and glass from each other, so they must be preferably visible and easily identifiable.
  4. Make sure that the item you are recycling is recyclable, and if you’re unsure, feel free to check our list above.
  5. Verify local recycling guidelines, as recycling programs may vary in the types of plastics they accept.
  6. Remember to remove the lids and caps from your recyclables, given that some programs don’t accept bottles or bins with plastic.
  7. Identify your recyclable plastics by checking the resin identification code, a number within a triangular symbol, usually located at the bottom of the product.
  8. When checking the resin identification code, 1 and 2 can be recycled normally, and 3 to 7 need a special disposal method, like TerraCycle or crafting projects.

By applying these simple tips and tricks to your recycling routine, you will be sure to contribute to the health of the environment. However, why are these efforts so important? Let’s take a look at the environmental impact of plastic waste to further understand what we’re fighting against.

The Environmental Impact of Plastic Waste

The environmental impact that non-recyclable materials create has become very difficult to even measure. However, there are multiple consequences that are clear, so let’s get into them to understand how these materials are causing harm to our planet:

  1. Non-recyclable materials take centuries to decompose in landfills, creating long-term pollution and occupying valuable land space that could be used for healthier purposes.
  2. These materials can become microplastics, which cause harm to wildlife and ecosystems.
  3. These materials can suffocate marine species or cause intestinal blockages, leading to an imbalance in their natural ecosystem.
  4. They are created through processes that involve coal use, which is a huge pollutant for the environment and a nonrenewable resource that is currently running scarce.

Mitigating these impacts requires a concerted effort to reduce plastic usage, improve recycling processes, and support the adoption of alternative materials. However, by applying the recycling processes we discussed, sorting and cleaning your recyclable materials properly, and implementing further recycling alternatives, we can create a better planet for future generations.

So, now that we understand the impact and what is being done currently to impede further damage to the environment, let’s take a look at what the future looks like to gear towards zero-waste living.

The Future Advancements Towards Zero-Waste Living

The efforts to reduce waste are imperative for sustainable living, and the strategies to reduce waste are growing at unprecedented paces. So let’s dive deeper into a few of these tactics that are becoming popular efforts to keep our planet clean:

  1. Communities are promoting reusable bags over single-use plastics to further reduce the waste stream.
  2. Waste management authorities are making concerted efforts to inform the public on what is genuinely recyclable to help minimize contamination in recycling bins.
  3. Organic waste is being converted into compost, reducing landfill use and furthering your plant’s health.
  4. Authorities are striving to improve waste management practices by implementing new techniques and technology to improve the purity of recycling streams.
  5. Communities are striving to implement donation programs in order to reduce waste being sent out to landfills.

Together, these actions contribute to significant strides towards a zero-waste future. So, what are you waiting for? Start implementing these strategies today and get ahead of the herd when it comes to your recycling game!

Empowering Responsible Recycling

As we navigate the complex world of recycling, it becomes evident that not all items belong in the familiar curbside recycling bins. The question of whether plastic bags can be recycled is just one example of the intricacies involved.

So to ensure a smooth recycling process and contribute to a sustainable future, it's crucial to be aware of what can and cannot be included in those bins and ensure they are in pristine condition when thrown away to facilitate the recycling stream.

By mastering these recycling fundamentals, you can actively participate in reducing plastic waste's environmental impacts and work towards achieving a more sustainable, zero-waste future.

Ready to elevate your recycling efforts and make a positive impact? Explore Trash Cans Unlimited for a range of bins designed to complement your eco-friendly initiatives and upgrade your trash cans to embrace responsible recycling today!