As the environmental awareness and interest in recycling grow, the question whether to trash or recycle an item has become more complicated. Recycling experts say that although there is an increase in the material that finds its way to recycling centres, many of us are still recycling incorrectly. Getting informed on what to do and what not to do takes only minutes, but makes a lot of difference, since recycling wrong can be as bad as not recycling at all.
Bottles, caps or both?
Plastic bottles with caps on used to be a great inconvenience at sorting facilities. While bottles are made from #1 plastic, caps are made from #5 plastic, called polypropylene. Since these two plastic types melt at different temperatures, they need to be processed separately. If a bottle is recycled with a cap screwed on tightly, the trapped air takes more transport space. In addition, users were encouraged to separate caps from bottles as they could become a hazard to workers, shooting off during compression. However, the new practices and technologies made possible to recycle bottles with caps on. They are now removed at sorting facilities, and if binned separately, they can even slip through the mechanical sorters and end up in a landfill.
To shred or not to shred…
The recycled paper grade depends on the length of the fibre. Shredding reduces the grade of the paper, and consequently, its value and quality as a recyclable. This is why recycling facilities take the effort to separate paper into grade-based bales. When you shred it, the paper transitions from high-grade letterhead and print paper to mixed grade, sourced from magazines and telephone books. What is more, not all recycling companies take mixed grade paper, and most curbside collectors determine what they can and what they can’t use based on the length of the shreds. Some programs only take long shreds while others won’t accept shreds at all. If your street-side collection doesn’t take shredded paper even if contained in plastic bags, they probably don’t take shredded paper. If you produce a lot of shredded paper, perhaps better use it for composting.
Each bag for itself
Far from that companies don’t have the technology to recycle plastic bags, it’s just that they cause a lot of trouble when used as containers for other recyclables. Although they are made of #2 and #4 plastic, which is recyclable, if they get in with other recyclable materials, they can wrap around and jam recycling equipment, with a potential of slowing down all your operations. They might contaminate paper bales and make composting less effective. If you want to recycle plastic bags efficiently, focus on programs that are made exclusively for them. Some grocery stores collect plastic bags, while some municipal recycling initiatives offer pick-up or drop-off programs.
Good practices Down Under and in the US
As a country whose waste generation per capita continues to rise faster than the rate of population growth (0.8% a year between 2006–07 and 2014–15), Australia has developed a coherent, efficient and environmentally responsible approach to waste management. According to the Australian National Waste Report 2016, almost 60% of the waste generated in 2014-15 was recycled. An important aspect of this policy is the private contractors who specialize in waste removal in cities in which they operate. Small businesses and households both rely on such professional rubbish removal in Sydney whenever they encounter a large amount of waste that needs to be removed from their property as soon as possible. Recyclable or not, with each day passing by, municipal waste is both a health hazard and an eyesore.
In the US changes in recycling has improved greatly with more awareness of the environment and with the growing effort of people adopting going green lifestyle. Improvements in recycling compared to 1970 until October 2016 shows that 63 percent increases in recycling among adults in the US.
Sorry, pizza box
Don’t let recycling symbols on pizza boxes and take-out carriers fool you – they are perfectly recyclable – until used. The food and grease that accumulate on the box make the paper unrecyclable. Although you can remove the remains of the food, it’s virtually impossible to remove grease. This is the case with all food-related paper products, such as paper napkins, plates, and towels. Still, if you can’t recycle them, you can compost them. Even ‘unclean’ paper contains short fibres which composting microorganisms love. What is more, the paper will absorb moisture in composting bins and help reduce odor.
Understanding and knowing what to recycle and some mistakes people make while recycling can make a big different in our future and how healthy our environment is and will be.
Some recycling practices have changed, the others have remained. It’s important to always stay on top of things and adopt new and more efficient ways, since chances are that the waste generation rate in your country is also higher than before.
Do you recycle?
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