2017-12-06 / Home and Garden

The household recycling breakdown: What goes in, what stays out

REGIONAL — Let’s be honest: if you intentionally make an effort to recycle, you are one step ahead of the majority of the population. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the recycling rate among Americans is 34.3 percent. While environmentalists may wish that this number was higher, it is important to applaud the efforts of that 34.3 percent for making a positive impact on our environment, according to the Northeast Waste Management Officials Association (NEWMOA). Recycling is important because it helps to keep waste out of landfills, preserves natural resources and saves energy, all according to a GreenWorks newsletter from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.

However, when we toss our cans into a recycling bin, we usually don’t consider what happens when they get to the recycling facility. When you put things into the recycling container that can’t be recycled or put them in the wrong place, someone working at the transfer station needs to sort through and remove them, which is time consuming and can be dangerous. If they stay in the bin, they can ruin the whole lot and that could mean it all ends up sent for disposal, all according to NEWMOA.

In order to ensure that you are making the most of your efforts to recycle, there are several important things to keep in mind that will definitely increase the impact you will make.

The Association offers the following tips:

DON’T recycle paper towels, napkins, tissues

These household items are not sturdy enough to recycle, and they break apart and contaminate the other paper. When used, the germs, rotten food and other contaminants can be a safety hazard for workers at the transfer station.

Instead, you can consider using washable cloth napkins, dish towels, and handkerchiefs. If you decide to stick with paper products, you can add them to your compost pile if you compost at home, or put in your trash.

DON’T recycle Styrofoam

Styrofoam containers like meat packing trays, restaurant takeout containers, coffee cups and packing materials can be recycled, however, it needs to be separated from other recyclables and is often too expensive to do so. Talk with your transfer station attendant to find out what your local facility does with these items.

DON’T recycle coated paper containers

Examples of coated paper containers are coffee cups, ice cream containers, milk and orange juice cartons, almond milk cartons and restaurant takeout containers. These are not readily recyclable because they are not made of all paper or all plastic and so cannot be recycled as either one. It is too expensive to collect separately and ship for recycling.

DON’T recycle greasy pizza boxes

While cardboard is recyclable, pizza boxes contain leftover grease from the pizza, which can cause a nightmare at recycling facilities. The oil from the grease hinders the quality of the pulping process, which can ultimately ruin an entire batch of recyclables. Fortunately, you don’t have to throw out your entire pizza box. Oftentimes, pizza shops will place a cardboard circle in the box to absorb the grease. In this case, you simply throw out the greasy cardboard circle and recycle the rest. No cardboard circle? Simply cut out the parts of the box that contain grease, throw them out, and recycle the grease-free parts.

DO rinse excess food from your recyclables

If recyclables have remnants of leftover food in them when they are brought to the facility, there is a possibility that the food can contaminate the entire batch of recycled product. To prevent this from happening, be sure to scrape and rinse out all food from your recyclables.


When it comes to containers with lids be sure to keep them together to ensure that they do not cause any mechanical problems at your local recycling center. Anything with a plastic cap should remain attached to its original container, as loose plastic caps can often jam machines in the recycling facility. This rule also applies to aluminum cans; when opening the can, do not completely detach the lid.

The only exception to this rule is for glass jars with metal lids. Instead of keeping the lid attached to the jar, place your metal lids in an aluminum can, and once it is nearly full, crimp the top of the can and place it in a recycling bin.

If you follow these tips, you can be sure that your efforts to recycle are not going to waste. For more detailed information and a printable household recycling guide, visit http://www.newmoa.org/solidwaste/projects/transferstations/Recycle_Right...

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