Rx NURSE KRIS: Healthy Recycling = Healthy Environment

Not long ago,  the city where I live made the life of this Domestic Square Peg just a little bit easier— they combined recycling.  Hallelujah!  No more sorting stinky old boxes, cans and bottles into separate bins.

I grew up in a family where my dad recycled with the same zest DSP Dixie drinks a dry martini, so I thought I knew everything I needed to know about recycling from tearing off labels to the tiny numbers on the bottom of plastic bottle (by the way, there are seven numbers and plastic numbers 1 & 2 are most often the only types of plastic that can be recycled curbside).

Theeeen…..   I ran into a gal who represents my city’s recycling and found I’m not as recycle-savvy as I thought.

“Times and machines have changed” she lectured— err, said.  ”…and with those changes comes new rules for recycling.”

I thought I’d take a moment to share a few of the rules that took me by surprise.   More than likely, your city’s recycling rules are similar, if not the same:

  1. Shredded paper IS recyclable, but NOT desirable.  Surprised me too, but shortened paper fibers lowers the grade of paper from high grade to mixed grade.  Mixed grade paper is still recyclable, but you may have a harder time finding a recycler who will take it.  My recycler happens to take it, but it must be placed into a brown paper grocery bag.
  2. Paper or cardboard with ANY kind of wax coating is NOT recyclable.  These are the types of boxes you will find in the freezer and fridge.  This also includes paper bags lined with plastic that contain pet food, cat litter & coffee.  Paper cups, bubble wrap, plastic envelopes and of course just plain ‘ole wax paper.
  3. EXCEPTION:  Cardboard milk and juice containers.  This came as a surprise to me. Even though milk cartons and “aseptics” are not 100% paper, there are specific markets for these materials. Aseptic boxes are a combination of plastic, metal and paper and milk and juice cartons (also known as “gable-top” containers) contain a moisture barrier, but since there are solid markets for these materials they can be included in curbside recycling programs.
  4. Empty & rinse– but DON’T FLATTEN recycling.  Flattening boxes, cans and bottles make it tough for the machines to sort them.  Who knew?  My dad built some pretty big biceps from a lifetime of flattening boxes and cans.
  5. Wrapping paper with foil, plastic or glitter on it is NOT recyclable.
  6. Envelopes with plastic windows MAY be recycled.  I’ve always taken the time to tear those “tiny” windows out– several hours of MY life I’ll never get back!
  7. Paper towel and tissue are NOT recyclable.  Can’t tell you how many times I just threw a tissue into the big recycling bin– ’cause it was there…and convenient– oops.  You may, however, recycle the tubes that hold them.
  8. Photos are NOT recyclable.  Two words:  CHEMICAL contamination!
  9. Styrofoam is NOT recyclable.  So you’ll just have to find another way to ditch all those clingy packing peanuts!  Go ahead and take them to your local shipping shop– they’d love to reuse them!
  10. Plastic liners are NOT recyclable.  I am talking about the kind you find in cereal and cracker boxes.
  11. Books are NOT recyclable.  Another big surprise.  The binding glue is a contaminant.
  12. Flat Plastic lids are NOT recyclable.  They are too flat for the sorters to find.  Metal lids ARE recyclable but place them inside the can they came from.
  13. Bottles that held hazardous materials are NOT recyclable, but bottles from cleaning products ARE recyclable.
  14. Plastic bags are NOT recyclable HUGE headache.  They get caught in sorting screens which causes shut down of sorting lines several times a day.  You can take plastic bags back to stores or drop them off at recycling depots where they are collected separately from other plastics.
  15. Recycle glass separately from paper, plastic or metal.  Recycle glass jars and bottle only.

Finally, the Golden Rule of Recycling:  ”WHEN IN DOUBT, LEAVE IT OUT!”  

Phew!  I don’t know about you, but my head is spinning!  Regardless, recycling IS certainly worth the work. Recycle the RIGHT way and maybe, just maybe– this world around us will stick around long enough for us all to enjoy another happy hour— or two— long into our golden years!

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