Recycling is one of the best and easiest things you can do to make your household a little greener. Around three-quarters of the people in the United States recycle, but there are several common mistakes that reduce the benefits of recycling. Fortunately, it takes only a minimum of effort to avoid these missteps and become a better recycler.
Rinse everything out
You don’t have to thoroughly scrub every bottle and can, but a quick rinse before you throw an item in the recycling bin will make the recycling process easier. Removing labels and sticky residue is also a big help.
Don’t recycle items with food residue stuck to them
By all means, recycle clean paper products, but don’t throw used paper plates in with the clean stuff. The same goes for used napkins, paper towels and things like pizza boxes and take-out containers. Impurities can ruin whole batches of recyclables, rendering them useless.
Know the difference between different types of plastics
There are several different types of plastics, so call up your recycling center and find out which types they accept. You can identify different grades of plastic by looking at the number inside the recycling symbol.
Remove bottle caps and rings
Believe it or not, the plastic twist-off caps and rings that come on plastic bottles cannot be recycled along with the bottles themselves. Bottles that show up at the recycling center with caps still on them are often discarded, so be sure to remove them before you place bottles in the recycling bin.
Separate different types of paper
Keep construction paper, brightly colored paper and wax paper separate from regular white and lined paper. If have a shredder, use it only for sensitive documents. The thin strips created by a shredder generally don’t have the long fibers necessary for recycling. It’s not necessary to remove every piece of tape from cardboard boxes or punch the little plastic windows out of envelopes – they don’t hurt the recycling process.
Watch the weather
Don’t set out bins of paper for recycling on a rainy day. Paper that has gotten soaking wet is often unsuitable for recycling.
Separate plastic bags
Collect plastic grocery bags and recycle them at the store rather than throwing them in with other plastics. Better yet, get some reusable bags so you don’t have to keep accumulating unnecessary plastics.
When in doubt, ask
Different recycling centers have their own rules for what they will and won’t accept, and the best way to find out is to call them up and ask.
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