Spending more time at home practicing social distancing means an increased volume of disposable products (food and package deliveries, extra cardboard and myriad plastic utensils). When there are certain disruptions to daily routines, it’s more important than ever to be mindful of what can and can’t be recycled. Items that are improperly put in recycling bins can actually end up in landfills, despite our good intentions.
Jeremy Walters, sustainability ambassador for Republic Services– the second largest recycling collector in the US, has a few tips to help you know what to throw.
It’s important to know that the only thing recyclable from most packages is the cardboard box itself. Packages come with a lot of bubble wrap, plastic air bags, cellophane wrapping and foam peanuts to keep your items safe during transport, but none of these materials can go in your recycle bin. Bonus points for removing the tape, which is not recyclable! Don’t forget to break them down so they don’t bind up sorting machines.
While pizza boxes are made of recyclable cardboard, once a box is soiled with cheese and grease, it’s no longer recyclable. Only clean cardboard can be made into new paper, and that dirty pizza box creates a larger problem when placed in recycling bins because it can contaminate clean recyclables.
Unfortunately, not everything made of plastic is recyclable, and recycling plastic utensils is completely dependent on your local facility, so check with your service provider. And remember, when in doubt, throw it out. And as for those Plastic Bags your food is delivered in, remember that they aren’t recyclable at all and can cause harm to your local recycling facilities, so keep those in the trash bin.
Paper Plates and Napkins
Like pizza boxes, these items are not recyclable when soiled with food and liquid. Opt for reusable or biodegradable disposable serving ware instead!
Americans buy 50 billion plastic bottles of water a year, yet only one of every four is recycled. This is a huge penalty because those bottles can be made into a host of everyday products like athletic clothing, so, recycle, recycle, recycle!
Beer, soda, seltzers… all cans are recyclable! Aluminum is forever recyclable and provides unrivaled benefits for sustainability. And please, rinse them first, as they can soil other recyclables like cardboard and paper!
Jeremy Walters is the spokesperson for Recycling Simplified, a back to basics recycling education campaign from Republic Services. Jeremy serves as a sustainability ambassador for Republic Services, an industry leader in U.S. recycling and non-hazardous waste. Jeremy helps to develop and execute recycling education programs and serves as a spokesperson for Republic’s nationwide “Recycling Simplified” education campaign. He joined Republic in May 2016and is the community relations manager for southern Nevada. Jeremy is originally from southern California. He has a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies with a minor in solar and renewable energy.