Given our current technology we’re not able to recycle everything, unbelievably. Good intentions aside, some items simply just can’t be salvaged, and even worse, some items can actually cause more harm than good by going through the recycling process. While it is true that technology is becoming more and more sophisticated every day, sometimes it can’t be helped, and you will need to dispose of some items into landfills. The following article is a list of common household items that you should never recycle, complete with full breakdowns explaining why they should avoid the recycle bin, and more importantly, whether or not it’s worth trying to compost them or to simply toss them into the trash.
Can You Recycle Bottle Caps?
As shocking as it may seem, the caps from your bottles of water or soda actually aren’t recyclable, and the reason may be surprising. Indeed, many caps can be recycled on their own, however on the inside of both metal and plastic caps you’ll find a thin coating of plastic. Melting this down would contaminate the whole batch. The thing to keep in mind when it comes to recycling is that all materials must be separated before melting down. Forgetting to separate them would result in the loss of the material that was used in the process. It’d be far too brittle, weak, or malleable. Don’t forget this concept as you continue on with the article, since it’ll pop up over and over again!
Are Cosmetics Recyclable?
While it is true that there are numerous companies making the change over to non-toxic materials in their beauty products, the fact remains that the vast majority of the market still uses very toxic material in cosmetics. Some hazardous, and thusly non-recyclable products, include lipstick, foundations, hair products, and even perfumes, to name a few. Due to the hormone disruptive ingredients and carcinogens found in them, these products can harm the environment and spread illness throughout a community.
While being as specific as possible, contact your local disposal service about getting rid of old and unwanted beauty products. More information allows them to properly dispose of the product. It’s okay to give too much info than to leave them with vague details. For example, many perfumes don’t list their ingredients on bottles, so it may need to be disposed of in an entirely different manner.
This isn’t to say that you can’t still recycle some items. Despite the toxic materials found inside, glass or plastic containers are still able to be recycled. If you’d like to recycle these things, then be sure to dispose of the contents in the trash can, then clean out the container. It’s best to hold off on going to the sink for as long as possible, since you don’t want to pour toxic chemicals down the drain. A paper towel or an old hand rag is more than enough to clean these bottles for recycling purposes.
What to do With Old Take-Out Containers?
What do they make pizza boxes out of? Cardboard. Guess what chinese pack boxes are made out of. Also cardboard. What do these products have in common? Contaminants. Remember in the section about bottle caps when we discussed mixing different materials in the recycling process? Food waste is also a part of that topic. Even if you were able to scrape off all of the cheeses, meat scraps and renegade noodles, you’re still left with a box of greases and fatty acids that have soaked into the cardboard. If you try to recycle that you’ll only be adding to the landfill because you’ll be contaminating all of that material. As a rule of thumb, if you use any paperboard products with food, chances are there’s no way to effectively recycle it. It is worth mentioning that many paperboard food products these days are compostable, meaning that you can safely discard them into a compost or even a trash can with less impact on the environment overall.
How Do You Recycle Styrofoam?
One particular hot topic is over Expanded Polystyrene (EPS), which is more commonly known as styrofoam. Because it’s a synthetic material that easily breaks down, many people believe it’s just as recyclable as plastic or paper. Burning EPS is also a commonly accepted method of removal.
The fact is that styrofoam is recyclable, under certain conditions. You may find your recycling is being thrown out if you put styrofoam into it because recycling companies can’t just melt it down with the other materials, and they don’t have the time nor the resources to pick through everyone’s recycling for it. To make matters more complicated, only certain types of styrofoam can be recycled, the rest have to be thrown away. Only the PS 6 styrofoam is able to be recycled, and it will be marked on the backs of all the pieces of styrofoam. If you don’t see that PS 6 symbol on the back, it’s no good to recycle.
It can be dangerous to burn styrofoam at home. Burning polystyrene will result in the release of deadly black carbon and carbon monoxide into the atmosphere. You will both be harming the environment, as well as anyone nearby by burning styrofoam, as it puts all around at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. Because of carbon monoxide poisoning close to 500 people a year die, and another 30,000 are put into the hospital. Needless to say, it’s just better to let the professionals handle it.
Despite this, there are some alternate ways to “recycle” styrofoam. One example would be donating your styrofoam to Publix, a company located in southern USA, which reuses old styrofoam to package their own products. You should get online and look for one of the many other companies throughout the nation that offer similar programs. If you are unable to locate a local business that has such a problem then you can contact your local recycling plant for a no-trouble drop off, and they’ll dispose of it for you.
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Can Shredded Paper Be Recycled?
Another hot button you can press is the topic of recycling shredded paper, and it’s not without cause. This is a rare instance where it’s not so much about it’s impact on the environment as it is about the logistics of recycling shredded paper. Every american uses an average of about seven trees a year for paper, and only 66% of recycled paper is even able to be reused. Shredded paper is much more difficult to recycle than regular paper, so of the few companies that are willing to take it, most require for it to be put into clear bags separate from the rest of the recycling.
The short and sweet of it is to not shred paper. This of course is unreasonable, since most paper that is shredded contains sensitive information that you don’t want the general public to get a hold of. As a compromise, you should only shred documents with important information on them, such as checking account information, credit card numbers, anything involving your social security, etc. This way you at least minimize your shredded paper count and recycling plants can maximize as much as they can from the process.
Can You Recycle Juice and Milk Cartons?
Most people believe you can recycle milk cartons and juice boxes. Texture wise they appear to be similar to cardboard or paper-like materials. In fact, they are. You’ll find that they are made of about 85% paperboard. The main problem with milk cartons and juice boxes is that they contain a thin lining of a plastic, Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE #4), on the inside. It prevents the contents of the container from dissolving the walls of it. You may destroy all your hard recycling work if you carelessly toss your juice boxes into your recycling, as it may then be all tossed away.
By switching over to purely plastic containers, companies have made attempts to address the problem. The simple solution to this is to buy strictly plastic bottles of juice and milk. Though it may mean using more plastic, the best way to recycle is to cut out the middleman in the process, and in this case that means cutting out your use of these harmful boxes and cartons. Remember, the goal is to reuse as much as possible, and if we mix materials then it’ll all end up in a landfill.
Are Diapers Recyclable?
The average diaper can take up to 500 years to decompose in a landfill, so naturally people will want to cut that down by recycling, after all, if it takes up to 500 years to decompose along with how many the average household uses them in a day, landfills tend to become overwhelmed easily. Again, you have to think about the logistics of it. Your average diaper contains not just paper, but plastic as well. On top of that, the diapers would have to be sorted and have contaminants removed to ensure other materials aren’t contaminated by them. Recycling a diaper currently has no safe and realistic solution to it.
There’s another way to help with the disposal of diapers though! Currently more eco-friendly diapers are available to the masses thanks to the large market for them. They spend less time in a landfill thanks to the high decomposition rate.
How Do You Recycle Ceramics?
Typically ceramics are made from clay that has been heated and shaped. The process, known as sinter, is where the materials are partly melted together, and they then cool and solidify to retain their shape. In a sense, it is very similar to glass. However, similar and the same are two very different things. Ceramic is not recyclable. The material is not easy to salvage, so if you break a mug or a plate you’ll have to throw them in the trash. You should note that, depending on the amount of clay in the product, you may still be able to compost them.
If you don’t want to send the pieces to the landfill, and you can’t recycle them, you could try reusing them yourself. You might be able to make a small plant pot from a mug that’s lost it’s handle by sanding down where the handle broke off from. Art pieces, like mosaics, can also be created by using broken ceramic. You might even be able to file down the ceramic and use it for gravel.
Can You Recycle Plastic Bags?
One of the biggest problems right now are plastic bags. Plastic bags, after plastic bottles, are one of the worst offenders with regards to our landfills, oceans, and national parks. Sadly, these also are unable to be recycled. Recycling plants won’t accept them because they can too easily damage equipment, getting stuck in either the gears of dump trucks and other machinery, potentially causing some serious damage. There’s a fairly simple solution to this issue: Don’t use plastic bags. The only feasible means of keep them out of the environment, due to the lack of means to recycle them, is to stop using them all together. With the option of paper bags and the rising popularity of reusable bags, there’s no real excuse to continue using them outside the realm of luxury. In short, it’s best to simply buy a batch of reusable bags and keep them in the car, that way you cut down on your carbon footprint and all the while cutting costs from big corporations for production.