Is Your Recycling Headed to the Landfill?

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I cannot remember a time when recycling wasn’t a part of my life. As a child, I was surrounded by campaigns and curricula that explained the importance of it. In school, on Sesame Street, billboards and commercials alike, I got it and loved it. (As a result, I have so many catchy recycling songs bouncing around this mom brain.)

During young adulthood, I became more aware of the impact our trash has on our planet and started researching ways to reduce the trash we generate. It’s something I take seriously, and I’ve always considered myself to be fairly well versed on the ins and outs of recycling. But I was shocked recently to discover that I still have a lot to learn. I love that our community has recycling pickup, but I was horrified to learn that my neighborhood recycling truck might be heading straight for the landfill, anyway.

It’s true: Recycling trucks are being sent to the landfill every day.

Despite our best intentions, a single choice to put a non-recyclable item in the recycle bin could send the entire truckload of recycling to the landfill. That’s right — THE ENTIRE TRUCK could be re-routed to the landfill because you or a neighbor didn’t clean out and dry that Starbucks cup before tossing it into the recycle bin. Republic Services is aware of the problem and is working on educating the public on the limitations of your home recycle bin.

I thought a knew all the big bads of recycling.

I knew you couldn’t recycle batteries, food, compost, clothes and Styrofoam. But what I didn’t realize is that just a single teaspoon of liquid can result in an entire truckload of recycling being sent to the landfill. That means we need to clean and completely dry those bottles before placing them into our outside recycle bin. It also means we need to be sure that our recycle bins are stored securely and in good condition. We live in Florida where rain is a near constant. Keep your recycle bin protected from water and food particulates — that means clean, empty, and dry.

Plastic bags are still our nemesis.

Plastic bags are a hazard to so many creatures and environments, and we can add the recycle truck to that growing list. I’ve always known not to bag my recyclables — keep them loose in the bin. I never really knew why, but the reason is that the flimsy soft plastic gets caught in the sorting equipment. And you guessed it — just like that, your entire neighborhood recycling truck is headed to the landfill. What does this mean for those pesky plastic grocery bags? Even loose grocery bags tossed into the recycle bin can have the same impact. Republic Services actually recommends that you put any soft plastics through “the poke test.” If you can poke your thumb through it, it should not be placed in the recycle bin. Plastic grocery store bags do not pass “the poke test” and should not be recycled.

Recycling Simplified, a website launched by Republic Services, exposes some important realities of recycling pickup. It’s a great resource to grab a few quick tips on how to do your part to make sure that your neighborhood’s recycling truck actually makes it to the recycling center. Hopefully, if you are like me, you are going to appreciate this refresher and pass it along at your next neighborhood meeting. Being sure that our recyclables actually get recycled only takes a few extra steps and will make a world of difference.

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