By now, virtually everyone knows just how important recycling is, and the numbers show that Americans are actually better at recycling than you might think. According to the EPA, of the 262.4 million tons of trash Americans generated in 2015, nearly 35 percent of this was disposed of through recycling and composting instead of ending up in a landfill.
However, the truth of that matter is that this percentage could and should be much higher. The only problem is that most people still have a hard time fully grasping what is and what isn’t recyclable, and this is only made worse by recent advancements in recycling technology that mean more items than ever can now avoid the landfill. In light of this, here are a few easy steps that can make it easier to determine what you can recycle and what still needs to go in the trash.
Sort through Your Kitchen Garbage
The kitchen is one of the most important places to start when it comes to improving your recycling habits, and all it takes is being more diligent about sorting through your trash. One aspect of this is making sure to sort out any leftover food and other organic items for composting. However, you also need to pay close attention to what types of plastic and paper items you can and can’t recycle. In terms of paper products, any items such as paper plates, napkins or pizza boxes that are stained or contaminated with food or grease need to either be put in the trash or possibly composted. In addition, most paper drink cartons are also not recyclable since they usually contain either plastic or aluminum foil on the inside.
Understand the Different Plastic Numbers
When it comes to recycling plastic, things are far better now than they were a few years ago. Gone are the days when you had to remove the cap (#5 polypropylene plastic) from plastic bottles (#1 PET plastic) as most recycling plants can now handle the majority of types of plastic with ease. Nonetheless, it is still important to pay attention to the various plastic numbers—usually stamped on the container—since not all recycling centers accept all types of plastic. This is especially true of plastic #6, expanded polystyrene, which you probably know as Styrofoam.
Not Everything Needs to Go to a Landfill
One area of recycling that is lagging far behind others is electronics, which usually contain valuable metals and other materials that can easily be recycled again for later use. Similarly, the construction industry is another area where a far greater focus on recycling is needed. Even if you’re simply thinking about dumpster rental for a small-scale remodel at your home, it’s important to know that there may be recycling facilities in your area. Some materials you might be able to recycle are: concrete, sheetrock, and various other construction materials.
Check with Your Local Recycling Center or Waste Management Company
Of course, the easiest way to determine exactly what you can and can’t recycle is to check with your local recycling centers or waste management company. Regulations and recycling capabilities vary from location to location. This means that what may be recyclable in one city may not be so in another. This is why it is important to check since your local facility may even be able to give you some recycling tips you’d never thought of.
The fact that the world produces such staggering amounts of trash means it is really every person’s duty to recycle as much as they possibly can. Even the most diligent of recyclers will slip up now and then and toss something away they could have recycled or composted, but this isn’t the point. The point is to make an effort, which becomes much easier once you know how to sort the good from the trash.
Rachelle Wilber, the author of this post, is a freelance writer living in the San Diego, California area. She graduated from San Diego State University with her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Media Studies. She tries to find an interest in all topics and themes, which prompts her writing. When she isn’t on her porch writing in the sun, you can find her shopping, at the beach, or at the gym. Rachelle recommends dumpster rental for those individuals who know the difference between garbage and recyclable materials. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.