Different municipalities and companies have different guidelines for sorting and cleaning recycling materials before pickup. The tools and machines at the facility, as well as how they collect and process the materials, will dictate these standards.
Whatever the guidelines are, you need to follow them regularly if you want to minimize your own environmental impact and ensure that as much of your waste as possible actually gets recycled. Here are four reasons why it's important for consumers to follow the guidelines.
1. Sorting Items Out Is Inefficient
Recycling facilities have conveyor belts where the recycled materials slowly move past workers who have to pick out anything that doesn't belong. The more items that end up in the wrong waste stream, the more time employees have to spend sorting the recycling, which equates to a waste of resources.
In addition, misplaced items can further slow things down by getting jammed in the machines. Plastic bags, for example, can jam up machines, which wastes even more time. Some non-recyclable materials can even damage machinery.
2. Misplaced Items Often Don't Get Recycled
Not only is not sorting items inefficient because workers have to sort that item out, but not sorting could result in items ending up in the wrong recycling room or even the wrong facility. Often, the recycling plant will simply regard misplaced items as contaminants and simply send them to the landfill. It's just too inefficient to collect them, resort them, and send them to the proper area for recycling.
In essence, your items often have one chance to end up in the right spot for recycling. If you're asked to collect plastics and paper items separately, putting something in the wrong bin can equate to sending it to the landfill.
If you have single-stream recycling, you don't need to separate papers from plastics, but you do need to be aware of just what the company accepts. If number 7 plastics aren't accepted, you may still be able to collect those and recycle them via a mail-in program. But sending them in with the recycling would just be giving them a ticket to the landfill.
3. Messy Items Can Make Other Items Unrecyclable
You've probably heard that you're not supposed to recycle pizza boxes because they tend to be greasy. Well, what if you have one that only looks a little greasy? You might figure that it won't do any harm to throw it in, since the worst that'll happen is that it will be sorted out and thrown away once it arrives at the recycling facility.
However, this isn't necessarily the case. Grease from your pizza box can soak into the paper and cardboard materials around it, contaminating them and making them unrecyclable too. So failing to sort out the pizza boxes can actually mean that other items get sent to the landfill, increasing your environmental footprint more than just throwing away the box in the first place.
4. Cleaner Materials Are Worth More
While facilities can handle small amounts of food debris on plastics, metals, and glass, scraping and rinsing out containers is still helpful. Once the recyclables have been processed at the municipal plant, they're sold to companies that produce other items from the material. And these companies place a premium on cleaner materials, since they're less work to use.
This is especially important if you're on the municipal pickup route. The more money the city gets out of it, the better they can take care of the city with fewer taxpayer dollars. Although, any company that's helping reduce landfill use by processing recyclables deserves the consideration of relatively clean recyclables.
As you can see, ignoring the recycling cleaning and sorting guidelines can have all sorts of repercussions. Follow these guidelines to make things easier for the people who are trying to recycle your waste and to make the whole process more efficient and send fewer items to the landfill. Give Total Trash Removal a call today to learn more about our recycling guidelines.