5 things you're recycling wrong
It'd be nice, but you can't recycle these things.
Words— Frank And Oak staff
You, the ever-conscious and caring individual that you are, would like to do your part for the environment. That's why you do your best to recycle what you use. This includes throwing things in your blue bin out of the hope that it's recyclable. It might not be. But it might be. That's better than the trash. This is what waste managers call "aspirational recycling."
This approach to recycling can actually harm more than it helps! Contrary to popular belief there is no one there to sort through the recycled material for you. Too many non-recyclable items in a bunch and it becomes contaminated and therefore may not find a buyer. These are then sent to the landfill.
Part of the reason we're all confused is that different areas have different rules for what you can recycle. The best approach is to check with your local municipality to see what they recommend. In the meantime, these are some sure-fire no-no's.
Single-use coffee cups
There has been a lot of uproar recently about plastic straws. Straws are definitely bad for the ocean and the environment, but single-use coffee cups are even worse. This is because disposable coffee cups are not just made of paper, they're lined with a fine bit of polyethylene that keeps your cup very dry and very useable. But this is also challenging to recycle as the materials need to be separated. As for the lid? It is likely recyclable but check the number inside of it to make sure.
Greasy pizza boxes
You'll often find pizza boxes listed as recyclable. They're just simple cardboard, after all. But it's the grease that causes the issue. When grease seeps into the cardboard, it cannot be filtered out from the box itself. A greasy pizza box risks contaminating the recyclable paper out there.
Single-use plastic bags
"A plastic bag is plastic", you think to yourself. "Therefore, it must be recyclable. Most plastic is recyclable." This just isn't so. As has been widely reported, plastic bags are suffocating our planet, so it would be nice to recycle them. But they plug up machinery. We suggest carrying a reusable tote bag with you whenever possible but some cities and grocers offer plastic bag collection points, while other cities (like Montreal) have banned these all together.
Yogurt cups (and other low-grade plastics)
Many yogurt cups contain plastics 3 through 7 (that number you'll find inside a triangle on the bottom of your cup). Historically this has been fine. But China recently banned its import of certain kinds of recycled plastics and without China, the market for these kinds of plastics is small and many recycling facilities will not accept them. Again, give it a good rinse before you throw it away. One alternative is to avoid plastic yogurt containers altogether. Many health food stores sell yogurt in glass containers.
Oily takeaway containers
Same kind of deal as with the pizza boxes and coffee cups. Oil and potentially recyclable plastics don't mix. Make sure you give your all-plastic containers a quick rinse to get all the sauces and oils and bits of food out of them as to not contaminate a batch. As for the carton containers—they're similar to coffee cups. Treat them as trash. Be on the lookout for black plastics as well (they're common in takeout containers) as many of these are not accepted.
You may not be able to recycle any of these items, but other recycled materials, like discarded plastic bottles, were used in the production of our newest shirts—helping reduce landfill waste.