Can I recycle this? An expert tells us on America Recycles Day

In recognition of #AmericaRecyclesDay, it seems fitting to discover what truly is and isn't acceptable for your curbside recycling bin. For the past 20 years, America Recycles Day has brought awareness to the importance of recycling and choosing upcycled products...and an effort to Keep America Clean. It's easy to overlook our contribution to waste, though, when we assume everything is recyclable.

can-i-recycle-thatPizza boxes? To-go coffee cups?

While every county is slightly different, I decided to ask our local expert, Marta Keane from Will County Green, for a quick checklist of what can and can't be recycled with our curbside pickup.

Drink Pouches? Yes
Wrapping Paper? Yes...unless it's metallic then no
Toilet Paper/Paper Towel Tubes? Yes
Paint Cans? Yes...only if empty
cartonsCarton Council (milk, juice, stock)? Yes
Granola Bar Wrappers? No...save for Terracycle
Pizza Boxes? Yes & No...grease is okay, melted cheese is not!
Styrofoam Containers or Shipping Peanuts? No (time to switch to the these 100% recycled containers)
Chip Bags? No
Plastic Lids? Yes, but put them back on the plastic soda/water/shampoo bottle, they're small and get caught in the machines
Metal Lids? Yes...ok to recycle separate from glass jars
Aerosol Cans? Yes...if empty
Ice Cream Pints? No
To-Go Coffee Cups? No

And the two big questions...

1. Does the peanut butter container have to be completely empty? No! According to Marta, scrape out as much as possible, but don't waste water resources to completely remove every bit. The heat of the machines will take care of it...and it will be recycled into a new non-food container: carpet, park benches, backpacks, etc.

2. What about plastic bags? NO! NO! NO! Plastic bags actually jam up the machines which have to be turned off and the bags un-jammed and removed before restarting. Sorry...I know I've slipped a few newspaper plastic bags into my recycling bin! Instead...tuck all of the plastic bread bags, resealable plastic bags, newspaper plastic bags into a standard plastic store bag and recycle them at your nearest grocery store.

Oh, and batteries, paint, electronics, and light-bulbs...you'll need to contact your local hazard waste for those.

Recycling is important- but we can do still do better. Re-purpose, buy in bulk, and bring your own reusable bags & containers to the store and coffee shop. Of course Favor the Earth is my favorite earth-friendly shop (I own it!), but it's the perfect place to find amazing environmentally conscious gifts and everyday necessities: cool upcycled bags for the sports fan, re-purposed cans into jewelry, eco-smart stickers that turn ordinary household objects into creative play, even 100% recycled bracelets that help clean up our oceans.

As the holidays approach, consider how your purchases & packaging impact the environment. Skip the "one and done"...life should be packed with memories, not disposables.

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