With time winding down on The Doomsday Clock, there’s always time to review one of the most basic (but all-too-often botched) ways to make the world a better place: recycling. This guide to local recycling resources will get you started. The advice is equally helpful for those who have recycled for years, those new to these practices and those developing new habits. You might be surprised to find that you have a few misguided habits— some of which might even result in materials that you thought you were recycling being thrown in a landfill. Yikes.
Sharpen your recycling efforts with this guide to curbside recycling, drop-off options, and common errors to avoid.
Curbside versus drop-off
For many living in the city limits, curbside recycling is provided. Your taxes pay for the service, so you only have to take your bin to the curb on the appropriate day, which varies by location.
For the folks in Oregon (the city no longer provides curbside recycling as of last year, though the decision is revisited periodically), Whitehouse, Swanton and other locations, you might have to do a little extra legwork. You can select from companies that offer recycling services, including Republic Services, Waste Management and Stevens Disposal & Recycling.
Choose one of the many available drop-off locations rather than paying for a service. While curbside services allow you to throw all of your recyclable items in one bin, dropping off your recycling requires you to sort the items and put them in the appropriate bins at the drop-off location. Separating the items — paper, cardboard, plastic containers and things that are left over— can take a bit more time, but it’s still relatively easy. The Keep Toledo Lucas County Beautiful (KTLCB) website (ktlcb.org) provides a long list of locations where you can drop off your items.
Whether you drop off your recycling or use a curbside service, make sure that you avoid the frequent mistakes that can cause problems at the sorting facilities. Adam Cassi, executive director at KTLCB, says there is one culprit that stands out above the rest. “Plastic bags. Typically, someone has a plastic bag they are putting [recyclable items] into, and they throw it in the recycling container,” Cassi says. “The sorting center is very automated. Everything needs to be loose. The magnets, shakers, grinders and all this machinery can sort things automatically. If it’s in a bag, it typically gets thrown in a pile to go to the landfill.”
Take note that you can recycle your plastic bags; you just can’t put them in the recycling bin. Instead, take them to your local Sautter’s Market, Walt Churchill’s Market, Kroger or Meijer. They all have an area for disposing of any plastic film, including grocery bags, the plastic covering that is used to package paper towels, dry cleaning bags and other similar materials.
Most of the confusion around recycling does pertain to plastic, Cassi explains, “A lot of people have a plastic toy, hanger, laundry basket or even a whole garbage can made out of plastic. These are not recyclable. It really has to be something coming out of your kitchen, laundry room or bathroom that had some kind of product in it. And it has a recycling symbol on it— the little triangle with arrows and the numbers in it.”
“A lot of people have a plastic toy, hanger, laundry basket or even a whole garbage can made out of plastic. These are not recyclable. It really has to be something coming out of your kitchen, laundry room or bathroom that had some kind of product in it. And it has a recycling symbol on it— the little triangle with arrows and the numbers in it.”
— Adam Cassi, executive director at KTLCB
Other things to look out for that can divert items from actually being recycled:
- Place the caps and lids back on the containers after you clean them thoroughly. If you have a random cap, you’ll just have to trash it. The sorting facility needs to have the tops on their original containers. Of course, if you have just the container and no top, that container can still be recycled.
- People are unsure about how clean the recyclable items need to be. “The process of recycling plastic, glass and aluminum can take some food residue, so if it has some smudges, that is okay,” says Cassi.
- The same cannot be said for paper and cardboard items. Because they’re made of fibrous material, any residue that seeps into the container cannot be removed, so if you want to recycle that pizza box, just cut the top off and recycle that portion.
In short, you don’t want to be a wishcycler, someone who is too optimistic about what can be recycled to the detriment of the bin. It might be counterintuitive, but when in doubt about trying to recycle an item, just don’t.
“Unfortunately, the rule of thumb is, if you’re not sure if it’s recyclable, just put it in the garbage,” adds Cassi. “It’s better off in the landfill than contaminating your recycling bin and clogging up the sorting facility.”
Visit ktlcb.org to learn how to safely dispose electronics, tires, paint, medicines and many other items, along with resources on how to recycle properly.
You’ll want to avoid complicating matters for sorting centers by following these Dos and Don’ts. When there’s too much contamination in a recycling center, many of the perfectly recyclable items are lost in the mix and end up in a landfill.
DO put these in your recycling bin:
- Plastic containers
DON’T put these in your recycling bin:
- Plastic bags
- Packing materials (like bubble wrap)
- Waxed cardboard (examples include tv dinners and other cardboard meant to go in the freezer)
- Soiled food containers
- Food waste
- Loose caps from containers