Have you ever wondered if something is recyclable, only to throw it in the blue bin wishing for the best? This is called “wish-cycling” and it does more harm than good.
Wish-cycling is one of the recycling industry’s biggest problems! Just because you think something should be recycled does not mean it actually can be. Recycling in the U.S. is just like any other industry – it must be profitable, and the products must have a market willing to purchase them. This is why many materials are no longer considered recyclable – we do not have a market for them.
When some non-recyclable items are thrown into the recycling bin, it often times contaminates the entire load. This means that there is a chance the entire load of recycling will be sent to the landfill, including all of the recyclable materials. This is why wish-cycling can be so harmful to our recycling industry!
Not So Fun Facts:
- Recent reports have found that 91% of plastic is not recycled (this plastic ends up in landfills and oceans where it contaminates our soil and water)
- When a batch of recyclables is contaminated, it is likely that the entire load will be sent to the landfill (all of these reusable resources are being wasted!)
- Contamination increases the cost of processing recycling (higher costs for recycling companies = less profit = more likely to go out of business)
To avoid wasteful contamination, we want to ensure that we are recycling the correct materials and throwing out the non-recyclables. This means we need to understand which items are recyclable and which are not; this often depends on your recycling center, so please take some time to check out your local recycling guidelines!
Why You’re Recycling Wrong
This video debunks some of the most common recycling preconceptions! Pizza boxes? Yogurt containers? Coffee cups? Watch to find out if your recycling habits are more harmful than helpful.
The “Who, What, Where” of Recycling
A great way to minimize the environmental impact of waste is to ensure we are properly disposing of our items! We don’t want recyclable plastic to end up in the landfill, nor do we want trash to contaminate our recycling stream.
Blue bin – mixed recycling.
The blue bin is for all recyclable materials! This means clean plastics, paper, and glass, aluminum, etc. Always check your local city or county recycling guidelines to see what is considered recyclable!
Green bin – greenwaste.
This includes grass clippings, leaves, cut flowers, small branches and prunings.
NOT: dirt, animal waste, rocks, succulents, pampas grass, and palm fronds.
Brown bin – landfill.
All of this waste goes directly into the landfill! Food wrappers, non-recyclable plastic, mixed-material items, and anything else that can’t be repurposed or recycled goes in the brown bin.
Yellow bin – compost.
If you have access to a yellow bin, this is where you should throw all of your food waste! Food scraps, paper towels, and tissues all go in the compost bin. Composting ensures your food waste will decompose rather than take up space in the landfill.
Bonus: Film Plastic Recycling
We are extremely lucky to live in an environmentally conscious community with innovative businesses like Ablitt’s Fine Cleaners! Ablitt’s has a film plastic recycling program to reduce the amount of film plastic entering our waste stream in Santa Barbara. They collect clean, dry film plastics and pack them up for Trex, a company that will convert the plastic into outdoor decking material.
Santa Barbara has 3 locations that accept film plastics:
- Ablitt’s Fine Cleaners – 14 W. Gutierrez St
- Santa Barbara Channelkeeper – 714 Bond Avenue
- Community Environmental Council (CEC) – 26 W. Anapamu St. 2nd floor
View the infographic below to see what types of film plastic are accepted here in Santa Barbara. If you are not local to Santa Barbara, do a bit of online research to see if you have any film plastic recycling in your area!
Takeaways: When in doubt, throw it out! It may seem more wasteful, but in reality you are taking the safer route. You can also cut back on your waste by consuming less products and reusing/repurposing the items you already have.
Our Planet Thanks You,