I have been recycling for at least a decade, but now that I’ve been researching how to reduce my waste, I realize that I was actually “Wishful Recycling”. I thought I was doing my part to conserve the planet, but in reality, I was keeping perfectly good materials from being recycled. I never read the guidelines of what should and should not be put in the curbside bins, I rarely removed food remnants from containers and I always put my recycling in plastic bags.

I know I’m not the only person guilty of wishful recycling. According to a poll from Waste Advantage magazine, 62% of Americans say that a lack of knowledge is causing them to recycle incorrectly. I think I can speak for most us when I say I had no idea I was doing anything wrong. Unfortunately, I can’t go back and change those bad habits of the past, but I can certainly make improvements moving forward. In fact, I made up a cute little rhyming acronym to help me remember the rules of recycling.

Think about the Planet

  • Plastic bags can clog up the machinery
  • Learn what types of plastic to be sure
  • Aluminum and Glass are recyclable to the nth degree
  • Never sharp or broken that can harm the sorter
  • Empty and rinse so materials aren’t contaminated by food
  • Trash if you don’t know, since wishcycling does more harm than good

A Little More Explanation

  • Plastic bags cannot be collected with curbside recycling, in fact, your recyclables shouldn’t even be put in plastic bags, since they clog up the gears and machinery in recycling facilities. One waste management plant reported spending 140,000 hours just cleaning plastic films from their equipment.
  • Learn what types of plastics are eligible for curbside pickup. The small number you see inside the recycling symbol on plastics only classifies the type of plastic, but does not necessarily indicate recyclability.
  • Aluminum, steel and glass are all infinitely recyclable, which means they can be recycled over and over again without a loss in quality or purity!
  • Never put sharp metal edges or broken glass in your recycling bins. Many facilities still have people sort materials by hand. In addition, glass from mirrors, dishes and bakeware is not recyclable.
  • Empty and rinse containers to remove food. Food remnants attract pests and can contaminate other materials, making them unrecyclable. On the same note, Pizza boxes should not go into the recycling bin because of all the grease left over.
  • Trash if you don’t know. If you aren’t positive that something is recyclable, it’s best to throw it in the garbage. When it doubt, throw it out.

Find out more about Ali’s zero waste journey here

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