Are You Recycling Correctly? (Hint: Probably Not)

Are You Recycling Correctly? Hint: Probably Not
IStock/Sasha_Suzi

According to the EPA, Americans still only recycle a small percentage of what can be recycled. While 75 percent of our trash can be recycled, only about 25 percent actually is. What’s more, even for those of us committed to recycling, many of us don’t recycle correctly. Not to worry, a few easy fixes will save your local recycler tons of time and money.

Ask Yourself Before You Buy

To start, it’s best to choose items that are recyclable or reusable before you buy. Ask yourself a few questions at the store. Is this made from recycled material? And can it be recycled? Choose materials that have another life in them. Here’s a hint: most materials CAN be recycled. If your recycler won’t pick up a certain item, like electronics for example, check with Earth911 to see where a product needs to be taken.

Some everyday recyclable materials include:

-Aluminum and glass beverage bottles
-Shampoo bottles
-Most product packaging
-Phone books
-Food jars
-Newspapers
-Electronics (though they need to be taken to another location)
-Used batteries and cellphones  (though they need to be taken to another location)
-Aluminum foil
-Steel cans
-Cardboard
-Office paper
-Dairy and juice containers
-Direct mail

5 Common Mistakes We Make at the Recycling Bin

1. Separating.

The signs usually layout clearly how recycling items should be separated. Follow the directions and separate correctly. If you have them all in one bag, take the time to separate the items at the bin. It saves your local recyclers time and money.

2. Rinse all food containers.

Open up all food containers and give them a rinse. If you’re turning in aluminum foil, make sure it’s clean.

3. Remove lids.

The lids on containers can’t be recycled together so make sure you remove them beforehand.

4. Be careful with plastic.

It’s best to avoid buying plastic in general because it’s the most difficult to recycle. Turn over a product to see if it can be recycled by looking at the number on the bottom. Here’s a guide to the numbers. Bottles, jars, and jugs are plastic containers that are the most recyclable. Plastic produce bags should not be placed in the recycling bin and when they are it slows the whole process down.

5. Dispose of hazardous waste correctly.

It’s dangerous to human health to dump certain hazardous materials in the trash. These items include motor oil, batteries, pesticides, and certain household cleaners. Check where your local hazardous waste should be disposed of using Earth911.

It Matters.

Those items that you don’t recycle can make a big difference and taking the time to be careful really does matter. Americans discard 2.7 million aluminum cans each year and only half of those are recycled. Easily recyclable paper products still make up 71 million tons of municipal waste. And plastic, which requires fossil fuels to produce, still makes up 27 percent of the waste stream. But the good news is recycling everything you’re supposed to correctly is simple and it makes a HUGE difference.

Related on Organic Authority
How Recycling Works…
The Four Commandments of How To Recycle or Repurpose Anything
The ABC’s & 123’s of Plastic Recycling

Sara Novak
Sara Novak

Sara Novak is an independent journalist who reports on health, science, yoga, and travel. She was a writer for Discovery Communications from 2006-2013 and her work has been featured on Discovery Health, Popular Science, TLC, Animal Planet, What to Expect, TreeHugger, and many more. She’s also a certified yoga teacher. When she's not churning away on her laptop, she can be found atop her yoga mat or walking the beach with her husband, baby boy, and two lovable cocker spaniels.