Updated: Apr 29, 2019
Currently we have a real problem as 91% of plastic is not recycled and approximately 50% of all plastic produced is single use. When we throw something away, where is away? It has to go somewhere. For something that is supposed to be used one time, it is pretty indestructible as single use plastic takes hundreds of years to breakdown. Bio-degradable means that it is breaking down naturally with the assistance of anaerobic digestion, but most plastics are simply degradable meaning they break up into smaller pieces and will never leave Earth. These small pieces that are broken down are called micro plastics and they are extremely harmful to our ecosystem. In the ocean micro plastics are hurting marine life as they are accidentally consumed as food. There is more micro plastic in the ocean than stars in the Milky Way. This is why it is more important than ever recycle and reduce single-use plastic usage.
Start with the recycling basics. Wondering if a certain type of plastic is recyclable? Check for the symbols. Look for a triangle and a number inside of it which indicates the type of plastic it is made out of. If it does not have this symbol, it means that the plastic is made with resins that make it non-recyclable. Not all plastics are recyclable, so make sure to check for the symbols. Here are some helpful tips and tricks to answer your questions about which bin different product goes into.
Water Bottles and Soda Bottles
Tip: Dump out the container, wash out any contaminations, and let them dry.
If you do need to use a single use water bottle, make the effort to place it in a recycling bin because the good news is that it is one of the easiest plastics to recycle. Plastic water bottles have some shocking facts. Three times more water is used to create the plastic than water in the bottle. Plastic water bottles take around 400-1,000 years to decompose. Annually, it takes 17 million barrels of oil to produce plastic bottles. Try your best to carry around your handy, reusable water bottle. Tap water has more regulations and is often times much safer to drink than bottled water. Refilling your water bottle will also save you a great deal of money.
Tip: Compostable, but not recyclable.
Look for the recycling triangle symbol with the number 7 inside of it. Plastic 7 is the other category for plastics and is inclusive of compostable plastics. This type of plastic is often times made from corn or soy. While these new plastics have the potential to be very eco-friendly, it depends on which bin they end up in. Compostable plastics are not recyclable. Since they are made from different materials they actually contaminate the recycling batch. They also cannot go in your home compost bin because they will not break down properly ruining your home compost. So where do they go? They are only compostable if broken down by an industrial composter. Place these products in the compost bin when available.
Trick: They cannot go in a normal recycling bin.
Plastic shopping bags are often placed in recycling bin, but the problem is that they are not recyclable when mixed with the other plastics. This type of film plastic actually gets caught in recycling machinery and can stop production because the machines break down. Please save all of your plastic shopping bags and recycle them at your grocery or convince store. Often times they have collection bins at the front of the store. These plastic bags are able to be recycled on their own. Limit single use plastic bag usage by bringing your own reusable shopping bags. Try keeping spares in the car for last minute shopping trips. Never place recyclables in a plastic bag or trash bag, because all recyclables should be loose in the bin.
Tip: Do not recycle them.
Straws do not have a grade of plastic meaning that they have a resin present making them impossible to recycle. In fact, they actually contaminate recycling. They are difficult to sort out of recyclables because they are so small. When food/ organics are used for compost, straws are often the top containment. Straws are piling up in landfills and hurting our marine life. Birds, sea turtles, and other ocean friendly accidentally ingest straws at the detriment of their health. Try saying no to single use straws. You can use alternatives such as bringing your own reusable straw, drinking from the glass, or using paper straws.
Tip: Examine before recycling.
Cardboard and paper are very important to recycle in order to save trees. This prevents deforestation and preserves bio diversity. Opt for recycled paper or going paperless online for a greener option. When it comes to paper, it needs to recycled upstream, meaning that if the cardboard and paper get mixed with trash then it is often contaminated. Contamination that makes paper/ cardboard no longer usable includes wax on the packaging, food waste, oils, and water. Pizza boxes are often placed in the recycling bin, but they are often contaminated with oils and food. Make sure that these do not get wet or else they are no longer recyclable.
Tip: Empty all liquids before recycling.
Aluminum is very easy to recycle and has many domestic recycling centers in America. They are also worth the most of any recycling commodity which makes sure that they will actually be recycled if you place it in your recycling bin. Domestic recycling plants are more sustainable because the commodities do not have to travel as far to be recycled this reduces CO2 emissions from transportation. Keep your eye out for aluminum water bottles to replace single use plastic. Recycling aluminum saves on oil, water, electricity, and reduces landfill waste. Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to power a TV for three hours.