Common Recycling Myths: What’s True and What’s Not?

Who among us hasn't felt a sense of pride when marching to a recycling bin and sorting everything out?

For those of us global citizens who live in a society where recycling is not
mandated, we face the pride of a non-enforced recycling. But are there any whoopsies that we do, any mistakes we make while recycling?

Do you have to wash plastics before recycling?

First of all, no, according to Chris Goodwin from Eureka Recycling, you don’t need to wash your plastics before recycling them. Of course, if there is any residue, collectors would appreciate it if you were to clean any sticky liquids out, for hygienic reasons.

You do NOT need to vigorously wash the containers. Recycling centers do NOT run plastic waste through a microbial check and toss the bottle or container into a blazing incinerator, if there is a smidgen of organic waste on it. Feel free to pour some of the remaining dishwater into the bottles, shake them and pour the residue out, but any more would likely be considered a waste of water.


Do you need to remove staples from paper stacks before recycling?

Thankfully not! While it seems insignificant now, several college and high school students have had to undergo the bane of removing staples from each set of notes before discarding them. Without going into specifics, that would be at least 50 sets of notes per student, and multiply that by a majority. Faced with this, imagine how many have simply given up and tossed their notes into the general refuse!

This also includes removing the spiral ring binder in notebooks, or the plastic cover. Paper is recycled by being treated with soapy water, before being repurposed for other means, which is simplified in a guide here! In this process, materials such as staples and plastics are separated from the paper to form a slurry pulp. So rest assured, if you do not remove the staples and other materials, you are not making it harder for workers at the recycling plant, and your old biology notes will certainly not be wasted!


Can plastics bags/ wraps be recycled?

This statement warrants an unsure reaction, because the answer is both yes and no, but just to be sure, we’ll say no, and explain why, and the exception to the rule.

Plastic bags that you can be charged for at your local grocery store, and plastic wraps that they use to wrap cut fruits, cannot be tossed into any roadside recycling bin. The logic behind this is that most recycling plants only accept more rigid plastics, such as toys, water bottles, or Tupperware. Plastic bags and wraps are made to be flimsy and flexible, which unfortunately, would require different processing equipment and procedures.

However! These materials are not doomed to lay within your home, or to be chucked in the non-recyclable bin. While recycling bins aren’t interested in the plastics, grocery chains are. Most stores provide collection bins for these, and usually recycle them into new materials like fences, pallets or more plastic bags!


So there you have it, three recycling myths, debunked, and perfect to help you be a more efficient recycler. Of course, each recycling plant is different, but recyclers everywhere can take comfort in the fact that recycling doesn’t have to be so difficult- and that we’re all in this together!

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