Don’t Just Dump it in a Bin: How to Beat Recycling Contamination

Don’t Just Dump it in a Bin: How to Beat Recycling Contamination

a garbage truck with garbage in the back

Everyone pretty well agrees that recycling is a good thing, and it’s easy to see why when you look at the statistics behind the practice. Creating new materials from recycled paper takes 70% less energy than would be required to produce them from scratch. Recycling one plastic bottle saves enough energy to keep a lightbulb lit for 3 hours. Every individual item we recycle makes a measurable difference in the world, and recycling as a whole is arguably the most beneficial waste solution currently available.

Unfortunately, 4% of all recycling waste – which amounts to a whopping 497,000 tonnes – has to be dumped or incinerated because it’s considered “contaminated,” and therefore can’t be recycled. It’s an easy mistake to make, but it disqualifies a lot of other items from processing. 

The good news is that once you understand what recycling contamination is, it’s simple to fix.

What is Recycling Contamination?

Recycling contamination, as the name suggests, refers to the contamination of recyclable materials by organic matter or non-recyclable materials. 

As a good example, consider a used pizza delivery box. The lid looks fine, but the bottom of the box is soaked in grease. Can it be recycled? Well, yes – and no. The top portion of the box can be put in your recycling bin, but the greasy bottom of the box should go in the trash.

Another example would be throwing plastic bags into a recycling container. Are they technically plastic? Yes, but not all plastics are recyclable within the existing system. The inclusion of these bags can clog up the recycling machine, making it more expensive, more time-consuming, and more dangerous for workers.

How Can I Prevent Recycling Contamination?

The first step to smarter recycling is to know what your local recycling center can handle. Most will have a list available explaining what they can process, and what shape it needs to be in. However, there are a few universal guidelines you can follow as a good rule of thumb.

  • Give recyclables that used to contain food a good rinse before you move them to your recycling bin. They don’t have to be scrubbed spotless, but they should be clear of any visible residue.
  • Always check the label on the container to make sure it’s made from recyclable materials. If it can’t be recycled, adding it could mean that the rest of your recyclables aren’t processed.
  • Are you recycling a glass bottle with a metal cap or lid? Leave the lid on when you put it into your bin.
  • Remember to recycle everything you can, even the items that might not be immediately obvious. There are plenty of cosmetics containers and electronic equipment that can be recycled rather than thrown into the trash, but as always, be sure to check the guidelines laid out by your local recycling facility.

How Do I Help Prevent Unintentional Contamination?

If you’re overseeing the waste solution for a large company or organization, you’re in a unique position to guide individuals toward proper recycling habits, all without ever really calling attention to the process. 

  • Consider purchasing plastic or metal bins with specially sized lid openings. For example, a lid with a cup-sized hole makes it clear that cups are to be deposited there, rather than in an unobstructed general trash bin. 
  • If you have separate bins for trash and recycling (and we hope you do!), keep them located right next to each other. Giving people the option to recycle can change their mind from throwing paper in the trash to dropping it in the recycling bin instead. 
  • If the people using your containers frequently throw away a specific item of trash, such as a plastic clamshell from the convenience store next door, it can help to post a sign clarifying what condition the item should be in before it can be recycled. Remind individuals that their recyclables should be free from food residue.

Recycling & Waste Solutions You Can Count On

Just like recycling, waste solutions aren’t a one-size-fits all type of process. We supply a variety of plastic and metal bins designed to meet the unique needs of your environment

Choose from a range of sizes, colours, and materials, and if you’d like a model that can be outfitted with cutout lids to encourage smarter recycling, just ask. Our staff will be happy to help you find the best waste solution for your business.

For more information on plastic and metal recycling or trash bins, contact our office or give us a call at 01634-838-540. Together, we can help make the world a cleaner, greener place.