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What is contaminating our recycling waste?


men holding a green wheelie bin outside

While recycling is an important step toward environmental sustainability, it's crucial to ensure that the waste being recycled is not contaminated. Contamination occurs when non-recyclable items are mistakenly mixed with recyclable materials, making them less valuable or even non-recyclable. Here are some things that can contaminate recycling waste that you may not be aware of:

  1. Pizza boxes: Greasy pizza boxes are often contaminated with food residue and oil, which can make the cardboard fibers difficult to recycle. If only the top portion is greasy, tear it off and recycle the clean part.

  2. Plastic bags: Plastic bags and films should not be placed in curbside recycling bins. These thin materials can get tangled in recycling machinery, causing disruptions and damage. Many grocery stores provide drop-off locations specifically for plastic bag recycling.

  3. Disposable coffee cups: Most disposable coffee cups have a plastic lining to prevent leakage, which makes them difficult to recycle. These cups are usually best disposed of in the regular trash unless a specialized recycling program is available.

  4. Styrofoam: Expanded polystyrene foam, commonly known as Styrofoam, is not widely recyclable. It can easily break into small pieces, making it difficult to sort and process. Check if there are local recycling facilities or drop-off locations that accept Styrofoam in your area.

  5. Shredded paper: While paper is recyclable, shredded paper poses challenges during the recycling process. The small paper shreds have reduced fiber length and can get caught in sorting machinery. If you have shredded paper, consider composting it or using it for packaging material.

  6. Food-contaminated containers: Containers with significant food residue, such as yogurt cups or plastic takeout containers, can contaminate other recyclables. Rinse these containers thoroughly before recycling them to avoid contamination.

  7. Broken glass: Broken glass can be dangerous to recycling facility workers and can contaminate other recyclable materials. If glass breaks, it's better to dispose of it in a separate bag or container to prevent injuries and contamination.

  8. Clothing and textiles: While many textiles can be recycled, placing them in regular recycling bins can cause issues. Donate clothing in good condition to charities or seek out textile recycling programs in your area for items that are no longer usable.

Remember, recycling guidelines can vary depending on your location and recycling facilities. It's essential to check with your local waste management or recycling center to understand specific requirements and recommendations for recycling in your area.

It is also important to consider securing your bins with a bin lock so they are not contaminated by other people passing by. One small item could contaminate your entire bin. Smart bin locks are the ideal solution as they are easy to use and highly effective.

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