It may be hard to believe, but some people think recycling doesn’t make much of a difference in the big picture. But nothing could be further from the truth! It’s simple conservation, and it makes our resources last longer and go farther, which helps us today and looks out for future generations. Recycling is efficient and practical, and it gives us maximum use of the resources our planet provides us, without having to extract fresh material from the Earth every time we want to make something.
Recycling also saves energy and helps protect the environment. Did you know that when manufacturers use recycled materials to make products, they use significantly less energy than when they use raw materials? Likewise, producing recyclable materials ready for manufacturing requires far less energy than extracting, refining, transporting and processing raw materials through mining and forestry, which creates a lot of air and water pollution. Recycling, by comparison, produces very little CO2, carbon byproducts, or other greenhouse gases.
Of course, recycling also helps reduce landfills. Instead of loading up the Earth with waste, junk and garbage, recycling helps keep the environment clean, safe and healthy. Did you know that Americans generate 25% more waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day? Remarkably, about 80% of what is thrown away during the holidays could actually be recycled or repurposed. Here are tips to become better recyclers throughout the year!
Paper & Cardboard
Flattened cardboard, newspaper, magazines, office paper and common mail can be recycled as long as they aren’t contaminated by food, liquid or waste.
Gift packaging can also be recycled, even if it is made of mixed materials. Just be sure to separate the cardboard backing from the plastic windows before placing them individually in your recycling container.
Even though it seems like wrapping paper is a slam dunk when it comes to recycling, that’s not always the case. If it’s made out of only paper -- no foil, glitter, or embellishments -- it can most definitely be recycled and should go right into your curbside container. However, the fancier it is, the less recyclable it is and the more likely it belongs in the garbage. When in doubt, throw it out.
Sticky gift tags are too small to recycle by themselves, but they can be recycled if they’re still stuck to an envelope, wrapping paper, or a paper gift bag.
Remember that once cardboard or paper comes into contact with food or liquid, it can no longer be recycled. Make sure to keep your outdoor recycling lid tightly closed during wet winter weather and don’t use your recycling container as an overflow trash can. So, water your holiday plants and trees, but not your recyclables! Never allow more than one teaspoon of liquid to remain in a recyclable item.
Before recycling food and drink cans, remove paper or plastic labels and clean out any residual food materials. Don’t fret, though, over thoroughly cleaning your recyclables. Just be sure to give them a good rinse and place them in your container when they’re dry so they don’t contaminate other items. The one exception is a metal can with an insulated coating – not recyclable! When in doubt, throw it out!
Hard plastic containers like water bottles, milk jugs, detergent containers, eggnog and flavored-creamer plastic containers, and other containers like them can go in your recycling container. The lids, however, are too small to recycle by themselves, so either put them back on the containers or throw them away.
Plastic bags are good for transporting holiday food and gifts, but once they’ve done their job, it’s time for the trash can. If they wind up in the recycling bin, they get caught in the machinery and cause extensive delays and expensive damage to the equipment. The poke test is just as accurate during the holidays: if you can poke your finger through the plastic, it doesn’t belong in your recycling container. Save them and drop them off at one of our local grocery stores for recycling!
Bubble Wrap and Packing Peanuts
Bubble wrap and Styrofoam packing peanuts require special handling and can’t be recycled curbside. However, bubble wrap and packing peanuts can be dropped off at most shipping stores (UPS, FedEx, etc.) for reuse or recycling. Or you can keep the bubble wrap for when you need to sit in a corner and pop the bubbles to relieve the stress of the holidays!
• Paper & Flattened Cardboard
• Metal Cans
• Plastic Jugs & Bottles
• Plain Wrapping Paper
TRASH OR REUSE
• Padded Envelopes
• Ribbons & Bows
• Bubble Wrap
• Packing Peanuts
• Foil or Glittery Wrapping Paper
NO Soiled or Wet Materials – Make sure recyclables are empty of their contents, clean of any residue, and dry before tossing them into the recycling container. This helps significantly to reduce recycling contamination.
Keep It Loose – Never put your recyclables in containers or bags. Just place them in the container individually. If they are bagged or bundled, they can’t be sorted at the facility, so all of it ends up in a landfill.
NO Connected or Mixed Materials – When two or more materials are connected they cannot be recycled as is, even if they’re all recyclable. If all of the mixed materials are recyclable, like a plastic toy package with a paper insert, separate the materials and put them in your container individually. If only part of the mixed material is recyclable, like a credit card bill in a window envelope, separate the plastic portion from the paper and recycle only the paper.