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Have you ever been unsure if something was recyclable or not, and just thrown it in your blue bin, because hey why wouldn’t it be if it’s cardboard, right? Well, that is the entire idea of “wish-cycling.” Not all cardboard is recyclable. For example, oil-stained pizza boxes are commonly thought to be recycled, but unfortunately that is not the case. Wish-cycling is the practice of tossing items in the recycling bin that you’re unsure are even recyclable. It is the hope that you are playing your part to better the environment, but in reality you may be making it worse. Let’s talk about some wish-cycling pitfalls recyclers fall into.

Plastic bags, plastic wraps, plastic envelopes? What is the difference? Well, they all don’t belong in your recycling bin. Plastics like these cannot be recycled at the Salt Lake local recycling facility, also known as the materials recovery facility (MRF). These tend to make matters worse at the MRFs when recycling, and to avoid complications, the entire load is thrown away. It is important to ensure that plastic bags are not in your curbside bins. Instead, take them to the grocery store, where they can be recycled, on your next trip!

Local cities and municipalities have different regulations on what can be put into curbside recycling bins. You can’t just throw any plastic container in there. Take a look at your plastic containers, there’s these funny little numbers embedded somewhere on the plastics. The number can range from 1-7, and those numbers tell us what their plastic makeup is. Of the different plastics, only some are accepted in most curbside bins. During our interview, Beau Peck from Pro Recycling Group said, “Know your list (of recyclables) and don’t stray from it.” Click here for a handy reference guide to help you understand what the numbers mean.

Another type of recyclable that needs to stay out of your curbside bins is glass. Glass undergoes a different recycling process, so it should be taken separately or in its own small grey bin. Here’s what Nicole Anacker from Momentum Recycling had to say about glass, “for household recycling, I think the main thing that people in Salt Lake City aren’t recycling is glass,” … “a lot of people are still unaware that glass recycling is even an option in this area, and are either throwing glass away, or mistakenly putting glass in their mixed recycling can.” Salt Lake City offers voluntary glass recycling bins through Momentum Recycling, for a small monthly fee. If you’re regularly going through glass, this could help save you a trip to one of the glass drop-off locations. If you only have a few glass recyclables every now and then, then you’re probably safe just taking them to a drop-off location as needed. Click here to find out more about this service!

A quick tip is to make sure that your recyclables are rinsed thoroughly before being recycled. Contamination is one way to ensure your would-be recyclable plastic jug makes its way to the landfill. When we were on the subject of what needs to be done with contaminated recyclables, Jen Farrell, former Education and Outreach Lead from Salt Lake City, told us plain and simple, “All containers need to be empty and free of food and liquids.” If water isn’t doing the trick, then you may need to use good old fashioned soap and water. A trick I like to use is placing empty, dirty containers near the sink so I wash them next time I do the dishes. That way I know they’re clean, and will be recycled!

Now that you’re armed with that knowledge, let’s put wish-cycling behind us. To learn more about how you can recycle responsibly according to your local guidelines, click here and search for your county.

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Thanks !

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