Common Myths About Recycling
Education and awareness around recycling has never been greater, yet only about 35% of waste in U.S. cites is recycled or composted according to the EPA – and that number hasn’t increased much in the past two decades. A large part of the problem stems from common recycling myths that lead many Americans to believe the effort to recycle simply isn’t worth it.
Another equally difficult challenge is that many local governments lack the funds to provide the proper bins for recycling, or the option for curbside recycling at all.
However, it’s important to learn the facts about recycling. There are a number of myths about recycling out there. Let’s debunk five of the most common recycling myths today.
Myth #1 – It is Better to Shred Documents Yourself Before Recycling
Attempting to recycle pre-shredded paper results in more waste during the process as the fibers have been shortened by shredding and often fall through the screen. Additionally, shredded documents may contain stickers, credit cards and plastic envelope windows that cannot be recycled with paper and can actually damage recycling equipment.
The only documents that should be shredded are those that contain sensitive and personal information – and then they should be thrown in the garbage, not recycled. The exception to this is commercial paper shredding and recycling that is carefully sorted to remove plastic and metal and sent to recycling centers in clear bags, versus loose shredded paper in residential bins that contaminates other recyclables.
Myth #2 – The Trucks that Collect Recycling Burn More Energy and Produce More Pollution than Recycling Saves
To really get to the truth behind this recycling myth, you have to look at the energy used in pick-up versus the energy savings of repurposing recycled materials. According to a study by environmental consultant Jeff Morris, manufacturing products from one ton of recycled materials uses 10.4 million Btu. Additionally, manufacturing products from one ton of virgin materials uses 23.3 million Btu. The collection, hauling, and processing of one ton of recyclables only uses just .9 million Btu.
Myth #3 – Composting is Unnecessary
Americans create 21.5 million tons of food waste each year that decays in landfills, creating noxious, harmful greenhouse gasses. If we composted that food instead, it would be the equivalent of taking 2 million cars off the road in terms of reducing greenhouse gasses.
Myth #4 – It Doesn’t Matter if What You Put in the Recycling Bin is Dirty, it’s Still Recyclable
Another recycling myth is that you can recycle an object, even if it is dirty. Greasy pizza boxes and paper take out containers with food residue cannot be recycled. While the high heat of the recycling process burns off food particles in glass, metal, and plastic, paper and cardboard undergo a completely different process. Paper is mixed with water until it breaks down and forms “slurry.” Fats and oils from leftover food do not mix with water and can contaminate a whole batch of recycled paper. Dirty items must be manually sorted at the processing facility, and this ultimately ends of costing your local government more in processing fees. If a container can’t be effectively washed out, put it in the trash instead.
Myth #5 – Recyclables Need to Be Separated (Glass, Plastic, Paper)
Modern processing facilities have equipment that automatically sorts materials by type. Called single-stream recycling, all materials move together on a conveyor belt as screens, magnets, and even lasers separate the materials and knock them off into their respective shoots for further processing. For processing facilities who have moved to this new technology, the hope is that it will solve one of the major obstacles to residential recycling: the onerous job of pre-sorting paper, plastic, metal and glass and hauling multiple bins to the curb for pick up.
Combined Resources, Inc. is a leading Chicago-based recycling company that serves the industrial recycling needs of businesses throughout Chicago and the suburbs, including Wheaton, Naperville, Schaumburg, and Oak Brook. To learn more about our recycling services, call 630-693-0111 or request your free recycling audit online today!
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