Rules About Separating Recyclables

| October 10, 2012

recycling rules Americans generate millions of tons of waste in our homes and communities each year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Recycling conserves natural resources. It saves energy and prevents pollution. It helps protect the Earth so future generations can enjoy it.

Many communities offer ways to recycle, whether providing a box or bin you can put out on the street or a recycling center or bin near where you live. Continue reading to learn about the rules of recycling, and check out DexKnows recycling to see who to call in your community.

1. Caps vs. no caps

For years when recycling plastic bottles, we’ve been told to remove the caps. Now the recycling industry is saying leave the caps on the bottles.

According to the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers, plastic recyclers will process bottles and recover the caps. There are markets for these plastics, including for recycled plastic resins such as the materials found in caps and lids.

“The marketplace is eager to consume caps as an expanding source of material,” Steve Alexander, APR’s director, stated in a press release.

The association says when the bottles are ground into flakes, a water bath float/sink process is used in which the cap material will float and the material in the bottle will sink. That helps separate the items.

2. Separate your plastics

Not all recycling programs take every type of plastic. It’s important to look at the bottles and other plastic items to distinguish which type of plastic it contains.

Items made of plastic often include a number inside arrows that appear to be chasing each other. These numbers comply with a voluntary guide issued by the Society of The Plastics Industry to help people identify what to recycle, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The numbers range from 1 to 7, as follows:

  1. Polyethylene terephthalate: used to make items including plastic bottles for soft drinks, water, juice, beer, mouthwash, salad dressing and catsup, jars for peanut butter, jelly and jam, microwavable food trays, and trays that can be stuck into the oven.
  2. High-density polyethylene: used to make bottles for milk, water, juice, cosmetics, shampoo, detergent and cleaners, bags for groceries, liners in cereal boxes, and reusable shipping containers.
  3. Polyvinyl chloride: used in shampoo bottles, cooking oil bottles, food service items, clamshells, bags for bedding, shrink wrap and similar items.
  4. Low density polyethylene: used in grocery bags, bread bags, some produce bags, shrink wrap, margarine tubs, squeezable bottles.
  5. Polypropylene: used to make straws, syrup bottles, bottle caps, many yogurt containers, margarine and sour cream containers, and medicine bottles
  6. Polystyrene: egg cartons, hot beverage cups, food service items, including cups, plates, bowls, and takeout clamshell containers, protective foam placed over furniture, packing peanuts, and compact disc covers.
  7. Other or a mixture: larger reusable water bottles, some ketchup bottles, and microwavable dishes.

Plastics with the Nos. 1 and 2 are often accepted and easily recycled. No. 1 plastics often get a new life in products including the fill in carpet fibers and sleeping bags and in food containers. Plastics identified by a No. 2 often end up in items such as plastic lumber, pipe, flower pots, recycling bins, shampoo bottles, detergent bottles and motor oil bottles.

Check with your local recycler or local government to see what’s accepted and what’s not.

3. Corrugated vs. non-corrugated cardboard

Corrugated cardboard is made with two layers of paper surrounding a middle, wavy layer. The South Carolina Smart Business Recycling Program states that it is “one of the easiest, most valuable and sought after materials to recycle.” It also reduces waste placed in trash receptacles.

Paperboard, according to the program’s website, is what the thick packaging found in cereal boxes and other food products is called. It also includes gift boxes, card stock and the backs of notebooks. Paperboard is considered lower quality and isn’t worth as much.

4. Give cell phones a second life

Cell phones can be donated to charities, including domestic violence shelters, if they are in working order. Donating a cell phone can help someone in need. Stores like Best Buy and cell phone companies may be able to provide more information or may offer to collect your old phone when you upgrade.

If not in working order, the EPA states that recycling cell phones and PDAs helps recover precious metals, copper and plastics that otherwise would take energy to mine and manufacture. Recycling a million cell phones saves enough energy to power more than 185 U.S. households for a year, the EPA says.

5. Buy recycled

The EPA reminds consumers that recycling is only part of the process. Buying recycled products closes the recycling loop. It makes the recycling process more successful and helps increase demand for high-quality recyclable materials.

There is the belief that when recycling is made easier, more people will take part. Contact your local recycler to find out more. Don’t forget to search at DexKnows recycling for a recycler in your community.

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Category: Recycling, syndicate

About the Author ()

Central Ohio journalist with 15 years experience at daily newspapers. Freelance writer and amateur photographer. Storytellers are my heroes, poets my idols and photographers my looking glass.