Believe it or not recycling has been around for almost 1000 years! In Japan, paper was collected and re-pulped into new paper and resold as early as 1031AD. However, it took another 600 years for the process to make its way to what would become the United States when a mill in Philadelphia started manufacturing paper from recycled cotton and linen rags.
Since then, the recycling process has evolved tremendously. In the 1970’s and 1980’s municipalities began offering recycling programs that required items to be sorted material. Today, most areas of our country offer single-stream recycling with “robo cans” that load automatically onto a recycling truck.
However, with the convenience of single stream some problems have arisen. People are not always aware of what should and should not be recycled and are not cleaning the items before throwing them in the container.
Clean items for recycling are extremely important:
Glass jars and containers contaminated with food can ruin an entire container of recycling products. When a container of recycling inspected at the processing plant is found to be contaminated, the entire container is rejected. Processing plants cannot use contaminated product and storing it to later sort is not only cost prohibitive, it can lead to insect and rodent infestation. Entire containers that have a minimal amount of contamination are rejected and redirected to landfills.
Pizza boxes that have no food, but areas of grease stains will cause a container to be rejected because the grease creates a fire risk that processing centers are not prepared to take. If you can separate a portion of the box with no food or grease, recycle it. Otherwise, throw it in the trash.
Recycling the wrong items is just as detrimental as contaminated ones:
Countless homes gather their recycling in plastic shopping bags. The bags themselves come from recycled plastic, so many people figure they can be recycled. However, the bags get caught in the sorting machinery and causing shut downs and excess repairs. Many municipal recycling centers and even super markets have plastic bag recycling options to keep these bags out of recycling containers. Garden hoses tangle as well and should never be recycled.
Cardboard that has been treated cannot be recycled either. Frozen food containers and other waxed boxes are common examples of these items that should be thrown in the trash.
Bottle caps offer up some confusion. Plastic caps from bottles and jars can be recycled if they are connected to the container. Larger metal caps from glass jars can be recycled if they are not connected to the jar. Small loose caps such as water bottle caps, beer bottle caps and Snapple bottle caps should be thrown in the trash. These caps get caught in the sorting machinery and shut them down.
Recycling is NOT more trouble than it is worth:
When clean, proper items are consistently recycled, the product can be reused and kept out of landfills. In addition, their can be some revenue for your municipality for consistent, clean recycling products. If we all take a few minutes to make sure the right products go into our recycling containers, and others are simply thrown away, we can minimize our waste and continue to Reduce-Reuse-Recycle.