Author Topic: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?  (Read 19082 times)

shelivesthedream

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How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« on: February 14, 2016, 02:49:01 PM »
I am generally of the opinion that it's better to err on the side of putting more in the recycling bin, rather than putting recyclable stuff in the rubbish. However, is this actually correct? We have mixed general recycling collections (we don't need to sort into separate bins) in south east England.

So...
1. How bad is it to put a non-recyclable item (e.g. made of a non-recylable plastic) that is clean into the recycling?

2. How bad is it to put a slightly dirty but fundamentally recyclable item (e.g. a can that's been rinsed out but not really cleaned) into the recycling?

LeRainDrop

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2016, 03:03:11 PM »
I am generally of the opinion that it's better to err on the side of putting more in the recycling bin, rather than putting recyclable stuff in the rubbish. However, is this actually correct? We have mixed general recycling collections (we don't need to sort into separate bins) in south east England.

So...
1. How bad is it to put a non-recyclable item (e.g. made of a non-recylable plastic) that is clean into the recycling?

2. How bad is it to put a slightly dirty but fundamentally recyclable item (e.g. a can that's been rinsed out but not really cleaned) into the recycling?

I'm interested in the answer, too, because I see people throw trash in our recycling bins all the time.  Does that just ruin the true recyclables?  Or does it all get sorted out?

GhostSaver

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2016, 03:10:38 PM »
Our local curbside recycling authority has sent emails saying that if they have a load with non-recyclables mixed in then they send the whole dumpster to the landfill. That's pretty bad.

I think recyclable things that are slightly dirty are okay. I give my tin cans a quick rinse and my beer bottles definitely still smell like beer. I think that's okay, though someone smarter than me might chime in and correct me.

Greasy cardboard (i.e. takeout pizza boxes) is NOT recyclable!

Primm

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2016, 03:17:24 PM »
Bad. Like far worse than putting recyclables in the rubbish.

If you put a recyclable item in the rubbish, you lose one thing that can't be recycled.

If you put rubbish in the recycling, it doesn't get noticed until it's in the truck (or more correctly when the truck is dumping out the load). By that point, depending on what it is, it can not only have contaminated an entire truck worth of recyclables, but whatever that truckload got dumped onto. So they have to end up sending the entire amount to landfill.

Don't do it, m'kay? It doesn't get sorted, they just dump the lot. That's what contributes to a large proportion of the cost of recycling.

lithy

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2016, 03:29:29 PM »
If it was worth anything, they would get it out.  Most of your recycling is garbage anyway.  No worries.

JZinCO

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2016, 04:42:17 PM »
My answer is to NOT rely on any of the specific answers you are getting in this thread.

This is a question you will have to ask your particular waste mgmt company.

It depends on the combination of manpower and technology. I'll give you examples from my county's recycling program. For example, paper that was crumpled and gallon jugs that were crushed were not recyclable when they had fancy, photo-based technology that sorts based on geometry. Now that they use laser spectroscopy that analyzes the chemical breakdown and can sort non-conforming geometries. At one point, freezer cartons with freezer burn reducing liners were not recyclable until a local company started a processing facility in town. I remember a few years back when tetrapacs were not recyclable (paper?! plastic?! IDK!!!).

Also, since the program employed the usually nonemployable (i.e. felons) they told us that when deciding, err on recycling. They can manually sort and they can't sort what goes straight to landfill.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2016, 04:53:17 PM by JZinCO »

lakemom

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2016, 11:04:58 AM »
Bad. Like far worse than putting recyclables in the rubbish.

If you put a recyclable item in the rubbish, you lose one thing that can't be recycled.

If you put rubbish in the recycling, it doesn't get noticed until it's in the truck (or more correctly when the truck is dumping out the load). By that point, depending on what it is, it can not only have contaminated an entire truck worth of recyclables, but whatever that truckload got dumped onto. So they have to end up sending the entire amount to landfill.

Don't do it, m'kay? It doesn't get sorted, they just dump the lot. That's what contributes to a large proportion of the cost of recycling.

+1  This is how it is explained annually by our provider.  I've even had an acquaintance get a letter from them (when they didn't dump her bin) telling her they can't take it because it has "trash" in it.  Wellll....no it was just they bagged their recyclables in trash bags and put them in the bin every couple of days.  She had to come up with a new system after that.

Cwadda

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2016, 11:16:47 AM »
Related question: I recycle everything I can, but for certain items like peanut butter jars that are extremely hard to clean, is it better to just throw away the jar than to use a bunch of water cleaning it out?

teen persuasion

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2016, 01:14:44 PM »
Related question: I recycle everything I can, but for certain items like peanut butter jars that are extremely hard to clean, is it better to just throw away the jar than to use a bunch of water cleaning it out?

It depends - what does your WM company say?  Ours gives us rules to follow, and they change from time to time.  Greasy pizza boxes used to be forbidden, now are accepted.  Sometimes they said just rinse cans/bottles, sometimes they must be cleaned.  We used to accumulate newspapers in a plastic grocery bag, but then a rule was made against plastic bags - they suggested tying the papers with string.  Some object to tied bundles.

Our library had to change routines when the recycling program changed last year - hardcover books must have covers sliced off.  Only the pages can be recycled; covers get trashed.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2016, 01:18:59 PM by teen persuasion »

LeRainDrop

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2016, 01:28:28 PM »
I really want to recycle, but with all these rules varying from location to location, and other people not following rules, I'm afraid that just about every load of recycling gets contaminated :-(  Please, someone, tell us our efforts are worthwhile!!!

KCM5

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2016, 01:56:00 PM »
If you're talking recycling #6 plastic when you're not sure if they take it, and it's single stream recycling, I would put it in the recycling bin. But also get a flyer that says what is recyclable in you're location so you're not wasting your time/their time. Where I'm from they sort the recycling by hand. So I also know that tiny bits of paper are only going to get recycled if they're in a paper bag or envelope.

Stuff with lots of food? If you don't want to clean it, toss it. A bit of residue left on a can? Okay. Personally, I always have these cans of salmon that I can't seem to get clean without scrubbing and I'm afraid of cutting myself if I scrub the can, so I toss them in the trash. This may be the wrong answer so perhaps I shouldn't be giving advice on an internet forum! But a bit of bean residue or something I always thought of as okay.

lithy

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2016, 07:49:48 PM »
Please, someone, tell us our efforts are worthwhile!!!

Do you just want to be told that your effort is worthwhile or do you want it to actually be worthwhile?

Because if its the former, that's easy, people have been told it is worthwhile for decades now.

If the latter, then the news is a little more bleak. 

I'd personally focus on the reduce and reuse parts of the equation and not worry so much about recycling except for aluminum.

JZinCO

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2016, 09:09:31 PM »
I really want to recycle, but with all these rules varying from location to location, and other people not following rules, I'm afraid that just about every load of recycling gets contaminated :-(  Please, someone, tell us our efforts are worthwhile!!!
Ask your waste mgmt company for a small poster for what can/cannot be recycled. I'm sure they have one. Tape it up next to where ever you toss the recycling (such as inside your cabinet).
Look at it when you have a question.
Go to sleep knowing you saved the world.
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LeRainDrop

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2016, 09:53:09 PM »
Please, someone, tell us our efforts are worthwhile!!!

Do you just want to be told that your effort is worthwhile or do you want it to actually be worthwhile?

Because if its the former, that's easy, people have been told it is worthwhile for decades now.

If the latter, then the news is a little more bleak. 

I'd personally focus on the reduce and reuse parts of the equation and not worry so much about recycling except for aluminum.

Yeah, I mean the latter.

I really want to recycle, but with all these rules varying from location to location, and other people not following rules, I'm afraid that just about every load of recycling gets contaminated :-(  Please, someone, tell us our efforts are worthwhile!!!
Ask your waste mgmt company for a small poster for what can/cannot be recycled. I'm sure they have one. Tape it up next to where ever you toss the recycling (such as inside your cabinet).
Look at it when you have a question.
Go to sleep knowing you saved the world.
Profit.

Oh, we've got absolutely clear-as-a -bell signage on this at every one of our condo building recycling bins.  Alas, too many residents just don't care and then contaminate the bin.

shelivesthedream

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2016, 01:33:34 AM »
Argh! So friggin complicated! OK, I will try to get in touch with the council and ask them. It's doubly complicated though because we have big communal recycling bins for our building, so if one person really messes up it would contaminate a huge amount of recycling, not just one household bin.

I know the big things about what can be recycled but it's stuff like bottle lids (different plastic from the main bottle) and things which are made of more than one material (paper envelope with a plastic window) that get me confused.

zephyr911

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #15 on: February 16, 2016, 03:02:30 PM »
The ghost of Bambi will haunt your children's dreams.

neo von retorch

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #16 on: February 16, 2016, 03:26:27 PM »
This thread is a little terrifying to me. In my neighborhood, I know that many of the residents don't care enough, and the contents of the communal recycling bins are chaos.

MrsPete

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #17 on: February 16, 2016, 09:29:28 PM »
Something I learned recently as my students were writing reports: 

If you throw a water bottle into the recycling, you should remove the lid.  The lids aren't recyclable (don't ask me why 'cause I don't remember), and the people who separate the items don't take time to unscrew the lids ... thus, a water bottle with a screwed-on lid will end up being shuffled over to the trash can.  I can't quite bring myself to throw the lids in the trash can (they ARE plastic, after all), so I throw them in separately now. 

As for the original question, I suspect it varies depending upon the area.  For example, where I used to live, we were required to separate our recyclables ourselves:  Paper, plastic, whatever.  Where I live now, we throw it all into one big trash can, and it's collected at ... okay,  I don't know where, but not my house.  Since the recyclables are collected differently, it seems logical that different processing plants would treat non-recyclables differently.

Related question: I recycle everything I can, but for certain items like peanut butter jars that are extremely hard to clean, is it better to just throw away the jar than to use a bunch of water cleaning it out?

Serious answer:  Get a dog to lick it out.  Dogs are insane for peanut butter, and they'll be glad to clean out your jars. 

Goldielocks

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #18 on: February 16, 2016, 10:08:37 PM »
One of the worst items to mix into recycling here is plastics in the compost (green) bin. 
Because of its smelly nature, no one wants to spend time sorting the compost, so it all goes to the pile.  If too many plastics, then it is nearly worthless.

For the rest?  I say rinse until you don't see food anymore, keep obvious trash out.  Every other nuance needs to be dealt with as "normal" by the recycling company. 

cerat0n1a

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #19 on: February 17, 2016, 03:51:55 AM »
I think (as others have said) that it really depends on what your local council does and they usually tell you in detail on their website. More than half of waste in the UK does get recycled in some form.

Where I live, all of the recyclables are taken to the recyling centre together, where they have a fairly complex setup involving magnets, cameras, size & weight sorting equipment and conveyor belts with real people, to separate out the various plastics, metals etc. Those individual components are then sold to specialist materials processors who recycle them. An interesting school trip for some kids!

The paper is pre-sorted before it goes to this centre and goes to Kent to be made into newsprint. The green waste is also sorted for contaminants and then goes through a high temperature composting process before being used mostly by farmers in the Fens.

The non-recyclable waste is also sorted, some stuff gets removed and the rest is also then composted to reduce the landfill volume and capture/reduce CO2/methane emissions compared with just putting it all direct into landfill.

So I think the answer is to try your best to comply with the guidance the council has given, but recognise that the systems have to be reasonably tolerant of many people being unable/unwilling to follow instructions.

I'm a red panda

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #20 on: February 17, 2016, 06:21:53 AM »
Quote
Serious answer:  Get a dog to lick it out.  Dogs are insane for peanut butter, and they'll be glad to clean out your jars. 

My dog sits staring at the jar and wonders when we are going to get it out for her.  Even if we put it all the way up to her nose and tell her to go ahead she takes one or two licks than stares at us.  She only eats food in her dish.



Our recycling company has told us the number one "NO" is the air pillow bags that shipping companies use. They clog up their machine and can take hours to remove/repair.  Other than that, they have some people who manually sort- but it saves them a lot of time and money to not need to rely on that.  Since we pay for the recycling through taxes and fees, avoiding that means they don't keep raising the rates on us.

Guses

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #21 on: February 17, 2016, 07:09:04 AM »
Quote
Serious answer:  Get a dog to lick it out.  Dogs are insane for peanut butter, and they'll be glad to clean out your jars. 

My dog sits staring at the jar and wonders when we are going to get it out for her.  Even if we put it all the way up to her nose and tell her to go ahead she takes one or two licks than stares at us.  She only eats food in her dish.



Our recycling company has told us the number one "NO" is the air pillow bags that shipping companies use. They clog up their machine and can take hours to remove/repair.  Other than that, they have some people who manually sort- but it saves them a lot of time and money to not need to rely on that.  Since we pay for the recycling through taxes and fees, avoiding that means they don't keep raising the rates on us.

Another solution for peanut butter jars is to use what they call a "cat tongue" (a cake icing instrument with a flexible blade). I am able to get absolutely all of the peanut butter from the jar.

When they used to have clear jars (now they are same colour as PB which is dumb IMO) I could see how good a job this did.

On a related note, my cats are crazy for peanut butter. It's a really bad idea to leave the jar anywhere in sight. Many a times I have had to scoop a portion of the PB to get rid of cat cooties.

shelivesthedream

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #22 on: February 17, 2016, 08:52:31 AM »
Right, all, I've emailed the local council - let's see what they say!

ETA: I thought the people interested in this thread might be interested in this too:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/save-the-bulk-app#/

The Zero Waste Home Bulk app is going to close unless they can raise enough money to keep it up to date with ongoing changes to the Apple and Android platforms. If you haven't used it before, do have a look and see if there's anything in your area. Recycling is good but reducing is better!
« Last Edit: February 17, 2016, 08:54:32 AM by shelivesthedream »

maco

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #23 on: February 17, 2016, 09:42:55 AM »
Related question: I recycle everything I can, but for certain items like peanut butter jars that are extremely hard to clean, is it better to just throw away the jar than to use a bunch of water cleaning it out?
If you have a friend with a dog, they'll clean every last bit of peanut butter out of that jar for you.

My answer is to NOT rely on any of the specific answers you are getting in this thread.

This is a question you will have to ask your particular waste mgmt company.

It depends on the combination of manpower and technology. I'll give you examples from my county's recycling program. For example, paper that was crumpled and gallon jugs that were crushed were not recyclable when they had fancy, photo-based technology that sorts based on geometry. Now that they use laser spectroscopy that analyzes the chemical breakdown and can sort non-conforming geometries. At one point, freezer cartons with freezer burn reducing liners were not recyclable until a local company started a processing facility in town. I remember a few years back when tetrapacs were not recyclable (paper?! plastic?! IDK!!!).

Also, since the program employed the usually nonemployable (i.e. felons) they told us that when deciding, err on recycling. They can manually sort and they can't sort what goes straight to landfill.
And some places have people stand there and pick things out that aren't quite right.

PhrugalPhan

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #24 on: February 17, 2016, 11:39:04 AM »
Our recycling company has told us the number one "NO" is the air pillow bags that shipping companies use. They clog up their machine and can take hours to remove/repair.  Other than that, they have some people who manually sort- but it saves them a lot of time and money to not need to rely on that.  Since we pay for the recycling through taxes and fees, avoiding that means they don't keep raising the rates on us.
Nearby are community recycling bins, and I love when I go to recycle and find air pillow bags.  I pull them all out and use them for all my ebay sales.  That and solid Amazon shipping boxes.  They keep my expenses to a minimum.  That and it helps keeps costs down for the county recycling program.  Its a win-win.

Giro

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #25 on: February 17, 2016, 12:18:54 PM »
I've always heard that it's only beneficial to recycle aluminum.  The rest of the recycling actually uses MORE resources during the recycling process than it saves.

I usually only recycle aluminum cans and paper.

I've tried researching this issue before but after hours of digging, I came away with all kinds of information that contradicted each other. 


neo von retorch

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #26 on: February 17, 2016, 01:45:49 PM »
It does seem aluminum is best: http://bgm.stanford.edu/pssi_faq_benefits

I'm not sure there's anything conclusive / convincing out there that it's a net loss.

shelivesthedream

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #27 on: February 18, 2016, 12:20:40 PM »
I've always heard that it's only beneficial to recycle aluminum.  The rest of the recycling actually uses MORE resources during the recycling process than it saves.

But one day we're going to run out of landfill space and oil... I have read as many sources that say that recycling uses more resources as sources that say that's a myth, but we shouldn't be chucking things "away" and using up finite resources to make new ones. http://i.imgur.com/up6yu.jpg

Guava

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #28 on: February 18, 2016, 12:41:33 PM »
Something I learned recently as my students were writing reports: 

If you throw a water bottle into the recycling, you should remove the lid.  The lids aren't recyclable (don't ask me why 'cause I don't remember), and the people who separate the items don't take time to unscrew the lids ... thus, a water bottle with a screwed-on lid will end up being shuffled over to the trash can.  I can't quite bring myself to throw the lids in the trash can (they ARE plastic, after all), so I throw them in separately now. 

As for the original question, I suspect it varies depending upon the area.  For example, where I used to live, we were required to separate our recyclables ourselves:  Paper, plastic, whatever.  Where I live now, we throw it all into one big trash can, and it's collected at ... okay,  I don't know where, but not my house.  Since the recyclables are collected differently, it seems logical that different processing plants would treat non-recyclables differently.


It depends on the type of plastic. The caps will not melt like the bottles. In the study of plastics, those that melt are called thermoplastics and those that don't, such as the caps, are thermosets. It all goes back to the molecular structure.

So yes, you can throw those caps in the trash.

shelivesthedream

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Re: How bad is it to put non-recyclables in the recycling bin?
« Reply #29 on: February 23, 2016, 01:53:53 PM »
Update: I emailed the council and got a reply that basically said "Your answers can be found on our website which is here." I replied saying "No they can't, that's why I emailed you". So now we wait again...

On the plus side, apparently they arrange tours of local recycling facilities so I asked about that too!