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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Top 5 Recycling Faux Pas and How to Avoid Them

How to keep the household recycler happy.

By Sami Grover
Chapel Hill, NC, USA | Wed Sep 30 08:00:00 GMT 2009

If your household is anything like mine, there's one person in charge of the trash and recycling. And wherever I've lived, that's been me. From student digs to young co-habitating professionals to marital bliss - I've been the one sorting through stinky cat food tins, poorly emptied bottles of soda, and plastics placed in the wrong place. And while I don't mind doing the recycling, there's nothing that drives me more crazy than a lax attitude to sorting trash from my housemates or family members. It's really not that hard.

In general, the biggest thing you can do is to stay informed. Talk with your family or housemates about your recycling system, and figure out methods that make it easy for everyone. There are, however, a few common recycling "sins" that seem to have cropped up in every house I've lived in. So, for all of you who don't take responsibility for the recycling in your home, here are a few hints to keep the domestic peace.

Top 5 Recycling Faux Pas - and How to Avoid Them

Unscrew It! - Yes, plastic bottles are recyclable, but in many communities the bottle caps are not. If that's the case for you, then please unscrew the lid before you throw it in the trash. There's nothing more frustrating than sorting through the recycling, and having to remove each bottle cap one at a time. (see Ed Begley's tips on sorting out plastic recycling codes to find out what is and isn't recyclable.)

Look Inside - For some reason, every household I've lived in has had somebody that insists on trying to recycle all envelopes - even when those envelopes are mostly lined with bubble wrap. Besides the fact that a plastic/paper multilayered envelope like that will almost certainly be unrecyclable, it's also pretty valuable. Hold on to those things and use them again. (Remember - always look to reuse before you recycle!)

Clean It! - I have heard arguments that rinsing out cans negates the energy saved in recycling them, but I'm pretty sure that's nonsense (especially for households like mine where hot water is solar heated). One thing is for certain--sorting through sticky piles of gunky recycling is no fun. So please at least empty containers carefully before you discard them.

Not All Glass is Created Equal - In most communities, just because it's made of glass, doesn't mean it's recyclable. Usually glass jars and bottles are recyclable - but drinking glasses, broken windows, vases, light bulbs and the like are not. At least not in regular household trash. Check out Earth911 to find out what is and is not recyclable in your area.

Compostable Doesn't Necessarily Compost - Sorry, just because it says it's compostable, doesn't mean you can throw it in your backyard heap. Most PLA plastics require high-temperature commercial composting to break down. If that's not available, you may as well throw it in the trash.

So there you have it - making recycling easier for everybody isn't that hard. And one last hint - if you're not the one sorting the trash, remember to say thanks!

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