Whether you're looking to offset how much you have to put in your overflowing trash bin or you genuinely want to live a more environmentally responsible life, recycling is a significant first step. Though true, not every item made from a seemingly-recyclable material is actually recyclable. In this piece, let's take a look at a handful of items that aren't as recyclable as you once thought.
There's never been a more convenient way to make a cup of coffee than with a coffee pod. You also may be thinking, "It's plastic, so it's recyclable, right?" Well, almost. The problem is that the #7 plastic that most coffee pods are made of is not easily recyclable. The second issue is that the cups are usually constructed of several materials, including the aluminum foil tops. These tops must be manually removed and sorted for recycling to take place—generally not worth the effort of the recycling centers. Even if you have put thousands of k-cups in the recycling bin, they're likely to be sitting in landfills for the next several hundred years. So, while k-cups may be convenient for you today, they'll likely be a headache for your grandkids, and their grandkids, and their grandkids...
Yes, it's true—cardboard goes in the recycling. However, by the time your family is finished with the deep dish cheese lover's pizza you ordered, that's not all you end up putting in the recycling bin. The cardboard has likely absorbed huge quantities of grease and food debris left behind from last night's delivery—making the cardboard no longer acceptable for recycling.
The good news is that many pizza shops are recognizing this and placing additional layers inside the boxes to catch the grease. Not only will your passenger car seat upholstery thank you, but so will the recycling center. If this isn't the case with your favorite pizza shop, know that greasy cardboard can sometimes be composted.
"Well, they're plastic, right?" One-time-use plastic grocery store bags, despite being made of plastic and even saying, "please recycle this bag" on them, aren't easily recyclable. While there are specific collection services that claim to recycle plastic grocery or takeout bags, these should stay out of your curbside recycling bin. Due to their thin construction, most plastic grocery bags get stuck in the recycling center's sorting machinery. This results in broken sorting center machinery as well as landfills and oceans filled with bags.
If you really want to recycle plastic bags, the best way is to re-use them yourself. If you choose to use them instead of reusable bags for your groceries, use them again for household storage, collecting animal waste, or the like. Your most responsible option is to not opt for them in the first place. A large number of plastic bags end up negatively marine life or filling up landfills, taking hundreds of years to biodegrade.
Ah, another case of "well, they're made of plastic, right?" We've all seen the news coverage of selfless marine wildlife advocates yanking plastic straws out of the nostrils of sea-turtles with pliers. Most of us probably watch that footage and say, "That poor turtle! Why didn't these soda sippers recycle?" Unfortunately, there's a chance that straw still came from the drink of a recycler. The issue is that plastic straws and typically made of polypropylene, an extremely difficult substance to recycle. Even if these straws made it to the recycling center, they're likely to get sorted into landfills, many of which are dumped into the ocean. To combat this, many restaurants are only offering straws upon request. Other eateries may have replaced their plastic straws with paper ones or reusable metal versions.
Your recycling efforts don't have to stop with consumable products in your home or office—they may be your home or office itself!
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