Recycling. The last in the list of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle yet, we often treat it as our first resort for anything plastic. One thing that's important to remember is that recycling is a business, and it's only utilized when it makes economic sense to do. Unfortunately less than 9% of plastics have ever been recycled. I'm not writing this to make anyone feel a sense of doom either, but really to educate on the ways we can be diligent with our recycling to help ensure that what we send to be recycled can actually *be* recycled.
I thought I was pretty good at recycling before going zero waste. I always made sure to clean out all of my jars and cans before recycling them, and I checked every container religiously for recycling symbols. I have however learned a lot more since starting this lifestyle that I think is important to share.
1. Just because it can be recycled doesn't mean you can recycle it: This one is a tough pill to swallow but it's hugely important. You need to search your city + recycling and read up on what items can be put in your single stream recycling bin. For example: the cartons that plant-based milk and creamers come in are coated in plastic, they can be recycled but not in all cities. Here is the breakdown of what Philadelphia allows as a reference. I just searched "Philadelphia Single Stream Recycling" to find this.
2. Don't "Wishcycle": Going off #1 here but if you aren't sure whether or not something is recyclable and you recycle it anyways that's called wishcycling. I have been guilty of doing this all the time myself before going zero waste and learning more about recycling. But don't do this! Because recycling is a business it needs to be efficient, if a recycling plant has too many items in it's recycling queue that cannot actually be recycled, instead of wasting time sorting through it all they will throw away the whole batch! Meaning that not only does that one item end up in the landfill anyways but so do all the other items in that batch that could have actually been recycled. That said: when in doubt throw it out.
3. Clean Containers: Anything that you recycle should be completely clean with no food residue.
4. Find Recycling for Miscellaneous Items: Items like plastic bags, batteries, etc. often can be recycled just not in your single stream recycling. If you have a plethora of plastic bags from the grocery store, outside most Walmarts are bins where you can drop the bags off to be recycled! Another example of this is at Mom's Market they have a whole area for Misc. recycling needs from batteries to shoes!
What other tips do you have for giving your recycling the best chance at actually being recycled? I would love to know in the comments below!
Join me as I document my journey to becoming zero-waste through this blog as a resource to others.