Recycling right is the key to maximizing its benefit; understanding what can be recycled locally keeps the materials stream clean and marketable.
There are items in the “NO” section of our local guidelines that are recyclable in other areas. This is because each recycling center employs a unique mix of equipment and processing methods, which creates variations in items and materials that can be recycled in each community. In addition, recycling processing centers have different end markets available to them; this drives decisions on which materials are acceptable.
Up your recycling game in 2023:
#1 Ignore the Recycling Symbol
The bottom line is that the ‘chasing arrows’ recycling symbol is largely unregulated. This means it can be stamped onto almost any product regardless of whether or not it’s truly recyclable. And as noted above, recyclability is equipment and market-dependent. If the equipment can’t capture and sort a particular item or material, or if there is no market for it, then it is essentially contamination. The best practice is to follow local recycling guidelines.
#2 Caps Off? Caps on?
Leave caps on plastic bottles, jugs, and jars. Remove and recycle metal lids and screw tops from glass containers. Lids can also be re-attached to milk and juice cartons as well as aseptic containers that commonly contain broth and plant-based milk.
#3 Resist the Urge to Flatten
As gratifying as it is to stomp on the can after you’ve just downed a cold one, resist. Recycling equipment sorts on dimension and a crushed can is more likely to wind up being sorted with paper than aluminum cans.
#4 Frozen Food Packaging
The vast majority of frozen food boxes are paperboard fused between plastic film. The recycling center can’t separate these two materials therefore they’re not recyclable. Recycle the internal food vessel only if it is plastic and bowl-shaped.
#5 How Clean is Clean Enough?
Clean containers are important to protect the health and safety of the workers staffing the sort line and to maintain hygiene at the facility. But don’t use gallons of water to clean your recyclables; give them a thorough rinse, wipe out stickier stuff like peanut butter or honey, make sure cans and bottles are empty of liquids, and toss them in the bin.
#6 How small is too small?
Plastic caps can’t be recycled separately because they are too small. A good rule of thumb is the item should be at least as big as a prescription bottle. And yes, prescription bottles are recyclable.
#7 The Nemesis of the Recycling Center
Never ever put plastic bags in your single-stream recycling, and do not put your recyclables in a plastic bag. Plastic bags get wrapped around the recycling equipment, and the line must be shut down to unravel the mess. It’s inefficient and costly; take your bags to the CHaRM Center at 6400 Arapahoe or recycle them at your grocery store.
Have more questions? We’ve got answers. Consult the Waste Wizard on our home page or give us a call at 303-444-2037.