Everything You Think You Know About Recycling Is Wrong and Here's How to Fix It

Mar 12, 2021 9:00 AM ET
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March 15th is "Everything You Think You Know Is Wrong Day." At Republic Services, we're celebrating the holiday by debunking some of the most common myths about recycling. In fact, across the country, the average recycling contamination rate is 20%. 

So, if you're confused about what can and can't be recycled, don't worry. We're here to help clear things up! Check out these eight recycling misconceptions and how to fix them so you can be a better recycler at home. 
 
RECYCLING MYTH #1: If you're not sure whether something is recyclable, it is ok to put it in the recycling bin anyway. This is a mindset that is often referred to as "wish-cycling" or aspirational recycling. Unfortunately, "wish-cycling" is detrimental because it puts a lot of items in the recycling stream that don't belong there, contaminating perfectly good recyclables and potentially damaging the equipment in recycling facilities. 

RECYCLING MYTH #2: Recyclables should be bagged. Bagging or boxing up your recyclables is not necessary. Sorters at the recycling facility are unable to sort through what's in the bag, so the whole thing could wind up in the garbage pile. Recyclables should be left loose when placed in your bin.

RECYCLING MYTH #3: It is ok to recycle plastic bags at home. Plastic bags, wrappers, and flexible plastic packaging are too thin to be recyclable through your curbside recycling. In fact, any plastic you can poke your finger through is not recyclable. We suggest switching to reusable bags made of sturdy, lightweight materials. 

RECYCLING MYTH #4: Old clothes, toys, and furniture can be recycled. These are items that should go to a donation center instead. Clothing and toys can be reused, but not recycled curbside. If the clothes are too worn, throw them out or use them as rags. When it comes to furniture, items that are too large to fit in your recycling container are considered bulk waste. If the furniture is too old or used to be donated, check with your local provider to see if they can help you dispose of it properly through bulk collection.

RECYCLING MYTH #5: Disposable diapers are made of plastic, so they can be recycled. Diapers cannot be recycled, regardless of if they are clean or not! It is best to throw these away. 

RECYCLING MYTH #6: Pizza boxes and foam takeout containers are recyclable. These items are often mistakenly placed in the recycling bin, but unfortunately, they are not recyclable. Once a pizza box is soiled with grease and cheese, the cardboard is no longer recyclable and can contaminate other recyclables when placed in the bin. If the top half of your pizza box is oil-free, you can tear it off and recycle that part. All foam products, from takeout containers to packing peanuts, should never be through in your recycling bin. 

RECYCLING MYTH #7: It is ok if recyclables are wet or damp. Only clean, dry paper and cardboard can be recycled.

RECYCLING MYTH #8: Batteries and electronics are safe to go into home recycling. Improper disposal of e-waste and batteries are quite common and can be extremely dangerous. Hundreds of preventable fires are caused each year by the unsuitable disposal of battery-powered electronics and batteries. Never discard of electronics or batteries in your recycling bin. Instead, consider donating old cellphones  to organizations like  Cell Phones for Soldiers or the 1Million Project, or look into our mail-back recycling program

Please visit our website for more recycling facts for your home or business.