While all recycling programs are different, here’s five materials that do NOT go into your recycling bin. Show off your sweet recycling skills to your neighbor with these tips:
1. Food Waste
Paper is recycled by mixing shredded fiber with water to make new pulp. Well, you may have learned in chemistry class that oil and water don’t mix well, so oil stains won’t simply dissolve in the water. Instead, you’ll get new paper that still has oil stains. Oil is a pretty common cooking ingredient, meaning that it’s a likely remnant for lots of different foods. You’ll be able to tell the difference between a water stain and an oil stain because oil won’t evaporate over time.
2. Hazardous Products
Say it with me: anything that comes into contact with hazardous waste becomes hazardous waste. This is why most paper towels and napkins are unrecyclable; they either clean up food waste or hazardous waste (e.g. cleaners, motor oil, paint.
When you’re painting the walls, you don’t want to get the floor dirty, so often people lay down newspaper. Well, if paint drips on the newsprint, it belongs in the trash instead of the recycling bin.
3. Plastic/Wax Lining
Plastic and wax lining is too difficult to separate during the recycling process. The exception is plastic windows in envelopes, because they can be easily detached by a filter leaving behind just paper. Use your reusable mug instead.
4. Pressure-Sensitive Adhesives (PSAs)
Not to be confused with public service announcements, these PSAs refer to anything that you can peel and stick without moisture. They are difficult to filter out and don’t dissolve in water (although the adhesive does), meaning they could be lodged in equipment.
You may know them by a corporate name, and you also may find the bright colors user-friendly. Extra complications arise when the bright colored notes are attached to white paper, as white and colored paper are separated when recycled (like when you do laundry). Address labels, stamps and even tape fall into this category as well.
Wet Paper, Paper Towels, Napkins
5. Wet Paper
You may be wondering why wet paper is a contaminant if the paper will be drenched with water prior to recycling anyway. The answer is that exposure to water shortens paper fibers, making it less valuable. If your curbside program or local recycling center can’t sell the paper to a mill, there’s no point in collecting it for recycling.
This is yet another reason to not try and recycle napkins or paper towels. As a good rule of thumb, make sure your paper recyclables are covered if it’s raining.