Wait, Does This Go in the Recycling Bin?

Wait, Does This Go in the Recycling Bin?

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Emily Han
Jan 27, 2010

What do you do when you're sorting waste and aren't sure whether that box or bottle is recyclable? Do you put it in the blue bin, figuring it'll all get sorted out at the recycling facility? According to Slate's Green Lantern, "when in doubt, you should throw it out."

As Nina Shen Rastogi writes, "it might be tempting to err on the side of tossing your mystery item into that bin," but it can actually do more harm than good. This is the case even if your community practices single-stream recycling.

According to Rastogi, mixing non-recyclables in with the recycling can cost money and fuel, damage equipment, and even ruin a whole batch of material. As personally painful as it might be to throw something in the trash, Rastogi reminds us that "the direct impacts of throwing away a single item aren't likely to be devastating."

We think the important thing is to be aware of your community's recycling guidelines, and to have information at the ready, bookmarked on your computer or smartphone or printed out and hung on the fridge. In addition, some general guidelines may be found in the Consumer Recycling Guide's Commonly Recycled Materials and Daily Green's Recycling Symbols on Plastics. As long as it isn't a chronic problem, if you occasionally forget or aren't sure whether an item is recyclable, keep perspective and don't agonize.

What do you do when faced with an item you aren't sure about?

• Read the Slate article: "Wait, Does This Go in the Recycling Bin?": What to do when you forget the rules

Related:
Good Question: How to Recycle Milk Cartons (w/ Plastic Lids)?
Simple Green: Recycle Envelopes With or Without Windows

(Image: Flickr member siftnz licensed under Creative Commons)

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