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October 23, 2018
 

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How to be recycling savvy in Ada

Part 2 of the Icon’s recycling series

By Liz Gordon-Hancock
No one would disagree with the statement that recycling is important. However, our best intentions do not always result in more being recycled.

In fact, if a non-recyclable item gets put in the recycling container, it could result in the whole batch being put into landfill.

Here is a list of further tips and insights from Republic Services on how to avoid that from happening and become recycling savvy.
(Click here for part 1 of this recycling series)

According to Republic, almost 25% of what goes into the curbside recycling is garbage or contaminated items and therefore ends up in landfill. If you find yourself questioning if something is recyclable or not, then it is better for you to throw it in the trash.

Many items are simply not recyclable. If a non-recyclable item or a contaminated item is placed in the recycling bin, it is more than likely to ruin the entire batch of otherwise good, clean recyclables.

For example, a plastic peanut butter jar, which still has food residue in it, could easily soil any paper or cardboard and make it unable to be recycled. For paper or cardboard to be recycled and remade, it must be clean and dry.

Republic Services warns that one or more contaminated items can ruin as much as a whole truckload of good recyclables, resulting in the whole load being taken to the dump.

Below is a list of the most common contaminating items seen placed in recycling:
• Diapers
• Yard waste
• Old clothes or shoes
• Food
• Plastic grocery bags

None of these items are recyclable; instead, they contaminate other items which would otherwise have been recycled.

Furthermore, trying to recycle unclean or unrecyclable materials increases sorting time and slows down the recycling process. It can also damage the recycling facility’s equipment and causes contaminants in the bales of clean recyclables that decreases the value of the items.

Plastic bags are not recycled by Republic Services - they can be recycled through a separate commercial recycling process, usually through your local grocery store.

Plastic bags jam the recycling equipment and reduce the quality of the recyclable bales. If your local grocery store does not provide a service, then try reusing or repurposing your bags. Otherwise, put them in the trash.

Below is a list of items that should never be put into your curbside recycling container:
• Disposable diapers and puppy pads
• Tissue, paper towels or paper napkins
• Clothing, shoes and other textiles
• Yard waste, soil, plants, grass clippings, hoses and garden accessories
• Styrofoam, fiberglass and other foam packing material
• Hardcover books
• Ropes, chains and cords
• Plastic grocery bags and photographic film
• Food waste
• Window glass, mirrors, light bulbs, batteries, and cookware
• Furniture, mattresses and insulation
• Treated or contaminated wood, sheetrock  or drywall

For most of these items, no amount of good intentions can enable these to be recycled. But for other items, they are re-usable, but not recyclable. Items such as clothing or shoes can be reused or repurposed, but this is fundamentally different from recycling.

The savvy recycler knows the different between repurposing and recycling. The recycling facility does not collect or separate items to be sent to second-hand stores or charity organizations. They are simply removed and put in landfill.

Any items that can be reused should be donated directly to organizations such as the Restore Community Center. Your unwanted books can be donated to the public library. There are other charities that take cookware, tools or building materials.

Most yard waste and food waste can be composted. Composting replenishes and rejuvenates soil. When food waste ends up in the landfill, it contributes to the creation of greenhouse gases, such as methane.

One could argue that methane is harvested from landfill as renewable energy, but it does not generate as much energy as recycling conserves. Alternatively, composting creates no greenhouse gases. 

To be truly recycling savvy, always make sure any recyclables are empty, clean and dry before placing them in your recycling container.  When in doubt, throw it out.

Over 15 million tons of CO2 equivalent is saved through Republic Service's recycling—comparable to the emissions of 16 coal-fired power plants. Let's keep up the good work!