The Do’s and Don’ts of Recycling Like a Pro

March 01, 2023

Recycling is beneficial for our communities and planet for a number of reasons. Not only does it save energy and resources, but it also reduces landfills and pollution and creates jobs. In fact, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recycling one ton of office paper can save the energy equivalent of consuming 322 gallons of gasoline. While the climate crisis can seem overwhelming and leave you feeling helpless, every individual’s actions can add up to create a major change and recycling is a great place to start.

To make sure you’re recycling effectively, be sure to follow these do’s and don’ts:

Do: Research what’s recyclable in your area

If you feel confused about what you can and can’t recycle – you’re not alone! The first step in recycling effectively is knowing what is and isn’t accepted at the recycling facilities in your local area. Each city has their own regulations and processes for recycling. It’s possible your local recycling facilities might not accept all recyclable items, especially when it comes to plastics. To see what’s accepted in your area, check out berecycled.org.

This information is important to know because placing items in the recycling bin that can’t be recycled can contaminate the recycling stream. Once these unrecyclable items arrive at the facilities, they have to be sorted out and then sent to landfills, which increases costs for the facility.

Don’t: Put plastic bags in recycling bins  

Never put recyclables in a plastic bag or put plastic bags (i.e. grocery bags) into the recycle bin. They are common contaminants in recycling loads, jamming the machinery and even causing the equipment to shut down. Try switching to paper or reusable grocery bags instead. If you do end up with plastic bags, special drop-off programs are available to help get them recycled.

Do: Empty, clean and dry your recyclables

Food waste contaminates the recycling stream, making loads of recycled materials useless and fast-tracking them to landfills. Anything you put in a recycle bin – whether its paper, plastic, glass or aluminum – needs to be empty, clean, and dry. A good rule of thumb is asking yourself if its clean enough to reuse it before throwing it in a bin. Those couple of extra seconds it takes to clean and dry the recyclable material can save pounds of materials from going into landfills!

Don’t: Forget to reduce and reuse

Remember that recycling is the third R – reduce, reuse, and recycle should always be practiced together. Avoid single-use items when possible. Look for easy and affordable switches you can make to reduce waste, and invest in items like reusable straws, grocery bags, and food containers.

Do: Make office recycling easy

Make sure your co-workers understand how to recycle and encourage them to do so. If your office doesn’t already have clear directions noted by the recycling bins, create a sign indicating what is eligible for recycling and what isn’t. Make sure each individual workspace and shared spaces all have recycling bins. After meetings, have someone designated to gather recyclable materials, from office paper to soda cans, to ensure they get to the right place.

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