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Recycling 101

Recycling is a great way to move towards being more environmentally friendly and conscious, but it is not a solution. At the rate we are consuming plastic and recycling it, we will soon not even have the funds or facilities to process all of it. The only real answer is to reduce and reuse what we already have -- say no to plastic. 

It is not completely avoidable, however, but another problem is that when we are recycling, most of us are doing it incorrectly. When we throw things away or recycle them, they do not just disappear; they end up in landfills or recycling plants and become toxins that enter our air, water, and soil. In addition, it takes time and money to correct the incorrect recycling during the sorting process. So in order to keep toxins out and save our money, we need to commit to recycling the right way. Here are some important tips and pointers. 

Photo Courtesy from Diversified Recycling

First off, not all plastics are recyclable and this is why we should be trying to avoid plastic at all costs. But next time you go to recycle a plastic item, look at the bottom for the recycling symbol and see what number is on it, so at least we can recycle things correctly. 

This is the most common kind of plastic used for bottles and common food packages. Recyclable.

Mainly detergent, bleach, milk, or other household product packaging. Also recyclable

Otherwise known as PVC, this plastic is found everywhere. It is extremely toxic and hard to recycle because of the toxicity. NOT recyclable

Mainly grocery bags, wrappings, sandwich bags, etc. Recyclable

This one is mostly clothing, bottles, rope, and tubs. Recyclable

This number houses all styrofoam, which is bulky but lightweight and exactly why it is hard to recycle. We should be trying to reduce usage of styrofoam because a lot of it ends up in our water and waste stream, polluting and harming ecosystems. And although the process is more complex, it is still recyclable

This last number is a mixture of any or all of the above listed plastics. This one should be avoided if possible as well because without knowing the exact composition, it can be dangerous to recycle and most facilities will not even accept it. NOT recyclable. 

And, not all things can be put into curbside recycling. Here is a great resource that will help you in finding out where to recycle those items:

For example, I needed to recycle some batteries and did not know how to or where would be closest to me. I simply typed in batteries to the recycling search engine, entered my zip code, and was able to find out that Staples takes an array of electronics to recycle. It lists a short description of what the facility accepts and does not accept and even provides the nearest location and hours of operation. So easy!  

I know recycling is not easy and is sometimes out of the way, but this search engine makes recycling simple and more accessible. It is our duty to recycle properly because not only does it protect our planet, but it also saves tax money that goes to dealing with recyclable items that end up in our garbage or just recycled incorrectly.