As recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Sunday, Nov. 15, is America Recycles Day. According to the EPA, Americans recycle about 68 million tons of material each year. That's great, but sadly much of that material still ends up in a landfill. You can do your part to help salvage this situation by recycling the right way.
Below are some tips for how you should — and shouldn’t — recycle.
- Know the rules: If you're new to a community or to recycling, contact your local recycling agency. They'll give you the rundown on pickup times and procedures, such as appropriate recycling containers and what materials are acceptable for recycling, which can vary by community. If you live in the City of Pittsburgh, here are the residential recycling guidelines.
- Recycle everything you can: Many things you use and throw away every day can be recycled and made into new products. Common items that should go into your recycling bin include metal cans, plastic bottles and jugs, glass jars, and cardboard and paper products such as magazines and newspapers.
- Keep it clean: Wash out liquid and food scraps from plastic and metal containers before recycling them. They don't need to be sparkling clean, but too much liquid and food waste makes sorting and cleaning more difficult and makes recycled materials less marketable.
- Buy recycled: The best way to support recycling is to close the loop and buy products containing post-consumer recycled materials. You'll be doing your part to maintain demand for recycled products and keep those materials from ending up in a landfill.
- Recycle things that shouldn't be recycled: Things like plastic bags, greasy pizza boxes and plastic foam cups are not recyclable and could contaminate a load. Also, many communities don't accept plastics numbered 3 to 7, which includes yogurt cups and butter tubs. Check with your local recycling agency to find out what types of plastics are acceptable.
- Just throw it away: Not everything can go in the recycling bin, but that doesn't mean it needs to go into a landfill. Donate or reuse items when you can. For example, old towels and clothing make great rags for cleaning and other chores. Look for other creative ways to make use of things that otherwise would end up in the trash.
- Create a hazard: Many common household items such as electronics, batteries, light bulbs and paint cans contain hazardous materials and should not be placed in recycling bins. Look for special community events or a permanent collection facility where you can donate or drop off materials containing hazardous waste.
For information and helpful hints, see Reduce, Reuse, Recycle from the EPA.