6 Things You’re Recycling Wrong

  • Can you recycle coffee cups or greasy pizza boxes? If you’re tossing things in the recycling bin out of sheer hope, you might be an “aspirational recycler.”
  • Don’t contaminate recycling with:
    • disposable coffee cups (they are usually lined with polyethylene)
    • greasy pizza box (contaminated with grease; compost instead if no plastic in box)
    • yogurt and other small plastic cups (China- where most materials have been set- recently banned used plastics from the US; now most recyclers don’t take #3-7)
    • plastic take out containers that have food/oil (clean them lightly before recycling)
    • plastic bags (never use them if possible; don’t put them in recycling; find where to properly recycle in your area)
    • dirty diapers (do not put these in recycling)

By Livia Albeck-Ripka

We have all done it: a greasy pizza box, a disposable coffee cup, the odd plastic bag. Sometimes, we want things to be recyclable, so we put them in the recycling bin.

Waste managers often call this wishful or aspirational recycling. But, unfortunately, putting these objects in with the rest of the recycling can do more harm than good. While rules differ in every municipality (check your local recycling website to find out what’s acceptable), we have picked out some key offenders to keep in mind.

Too many of these items will contaminate a batch of recycling. That means waste managers might not be able to find buyers for the materials — especially now that China, one of the world’s main importers of recyclable waste, has said it will reject shipments that are more than 0.5 percent impure. Contaminated loads could be sent to the landfill instead….