How To Be A Better Recycler

Recycling is one of the best ways to help the environment and to reduce the amount of trash that ends up in landfills. However, not everything we use can be recycled, and not everything can be recycled together or even using the same methods.

How To Be A Better Recycler

You might think you are helping the planet by throwing as much as you can into the recycling bin, but the truth is that a third of that is not even recyclable. Also, bunching together different recyclables can contaminate them, making them unfit for recycling.

Take a look and see what it is that you are supposed to do to make sure you are recycling in the right and most helpful way.

How Does Recycling Work?

In the United Kingdom, recycling can be broken down into three basic steps. Each of these steps can vary depending on your state or local practices or laws. However broadly they are:

1. Collection

Recyclable materials are collected by either a government agency or a private hauler, depending upon your local government. How often these items are collected, and what these items may be, will depend on the amount of trash generated and the recycling facility they are going to.

2. Processing

In this step, the recyclables collected from different places are sent to the processing facility where the collected materials are sorted and collated to be sent to manufacturing units. These materials will sometimes also be cleaned at these facilities but there are complications to this which you will read about a bit further down.

3. Remanufacturing

Here the ready to recycle material is remanufactured into new products, this can happen at specialized recycling facilities, or even at normal paper mills or bottle manufacturing facilities based upon the type of recyclable material.

What Is Wish-Cycling?

Wish-cycling is the phenomenon where a person feels the need to recycle as much as possible, even things that cannot be recycled. There is a wish-fulfilment factor where you think or hope that things that are like recyclable items will also get recycled, but that is not the case.

In this scenario, people end up overloading their recycling bins and local recycling facilities with items like greasy take-out containers, pizza boxes, unemptied cleaning products or plastic bottles and the like.

However, these things are either contaminated with food and must be washed before sent for recycling or are not recyclable at all.

So, the first step in being a better recycler is to stop doing this and take the time to learn which items are recyclable and which items does your local recycling plant take in for recycling.

Not every recycling plant recycles every item that is marked, so you might have to save a garbage bag for a different plant or facility that takes the other items.

What Trash Belongs In the Recycling Bin?

There are broadly four categories of recyclable materials. Further breakdowns on types of these categories will have to be checked with your local authorities as they can vary depending on the recycling available in your area.

  • Paper and cardboard, unless they are lined with plastic or other materials.
  • Metal cans, including aluminium cans.
  • Plastic bottles once they are cleaned and dry.
  • Glass without food or grease on it.

What Should You Do before Binning?

There are a few steps you can take before adding anything to your recycling bin or recycling pile and they will help make sure your recyclables actually get recycled and you will also be helping quicken the process at the recycling and processing facilities.

Separate The Materials

This may be something that you already practice, but it never hurts to repeat it. Always have separate recycling bins for different materials. This is not just to make the sorting at the processing plant easier but also to make sure that the materials do not get cross-contaminated.

For example, if you mix aluminium cans and paper in one bin, the leftover liquid in the cans will contaminate the paper by making it wet and sticky. Even if it's just a few drops leftover it will consign your otherwise perfectly recyclable paper straight to the dump.

Empty And Clean

Before you add anything to the recycling bin make sure you have completely emptied it of any leftover food, liquid, etc. The leftovers in the recyclables can end up contaminating it and the other products as well making them unfit for recycling.

For things like plastic bottles and jars, make sure to rinse them out as well so that they don't have any leftover grease or liquid in them. Also make sure they are completely dry before adding them to the recycling bin.

Do Not Bag Or Bundle

You might be thinking that you are helping out by tying jars together or bundling the paper waste into a bag but the truth is that only hinders the recycling process. At the processing facility the sorting of materials is done extremely fast and your bundled up bunch may just be tossed aside because the sorters could not tell the contents inside.

If it is an automated sorting facility then bags and bundled things can cause the machinery to stall or even damage causing even more issues. So always keep your recyclables into the bin individually.

Single Material Rule

This is the most common misconception that exists in recycling, you might look at a coffee cup and think surely this is recyclable? However, that depends on whether the cup in question has a plastic lining or not.

Whenever two materials are combined like paper and plastic in cups or foam and paper in delivery envelopes, they are rendered unrecyclable.

This is because the recycling process for the two materials are completely different and it is either very difficult or mostly impossible to separate the two materials in such cases.

If you can separate the two materials like cardboard packaging that has a little plastic window that you can remove, make sure to do that and place each material in its respective bin.