Why you’re recycling wrong

Knowing what you can and can’t recycle isn’t easy. But when you put stuff that can’t be recycled into that blue bin, it can turn entire hauls of otherwise recyclable materials into trash.

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People try to recycle everything. Waste management workers routinely find bowling balls, batteries, Christmas lights, animal carcasses, even dirty diapers. In 2018, about 25% of items that Americans tried to recycle were actually non-recyclable trash, known as “contamination.” The more contamination that enters recycling plants, the more likely a waste management company will simply send the entire haul, including items that could be recycled, to a landfill.

Watch the video above to learn more about why Americans’ recycling habits are trash, and how you can prevent recycling contamination.

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  1. Waste Management is a huge issue. And I think this video, while its aim is to educate, falls short of explaining the grave impact of contamination and general consumer apathy.

  2. Craziness!
    My town notified us that shredded paper would no longer be accepted. Same for any plastic except bottles!
    Fortunately, they changed to a different recycler, which tells us they will accept far more materials than the previous outfit. I just hope the new one is not a trash incinerator outfit.
    A pie-in-the-face to Target, where the recycling bins suddenly disappeared. The cashier I asked was clueless about this. Maybe the bins are back by now- or not.

  3. In Germany I divide my trash into 6 different containers: transparent glass, colored glass, paper and cardboard (clean), recyclables (cans, plastic etc), compost waste (no cooked food) and normal house trash. Most bottles and cans can be exchanged for money in supermarkets and you can also take your old batteries, light bulbs and electronics there. If it's not a clean container you wash it or throw it with the normal trash. Btw I'm an immigrant and I don't think it's complicated or difficult.

  4. How to stop making mistakes in recycling waste: search on the internet for the recycling regulation enforced in the municipality where you live.

    Also, if you really have to buy beverages to go every day, use your own cup! I go to university every day and the commute takes over an hour, and I often feel like drinking a hot coffee before I get into class, especially in the winter, so I always carry around a cup in my backpack, wrapped in a thick trekking sock which protects it, and I ask the waitress to put the coffee in it instead of using one of their disposable ones. When I get to class I'm usually done drinking, so I wash it with tap water in the bathroom and then put it back in the sock. It's easy, and prevents me from wasting hundreds of paper cups every year.

  5. 2 ads came up whilst doing a watch of this. One Ladbrokes, one a Yiddish car insurance company [ Yiddish actors ]. Let 'em play. Couldn't cost nicer whackers. No interest whatsoever in the product of either..

  6. See this is the other problem – recycling is fine, but if you can do something so you don't need to use recycling in the first place, that is always preferable.

    So the narrator of this video brought some tea in the morning – fine, but if she'd just brought a reusable cup to put it in, she wouldn't need to recycle or throw it in the trash. Neither recycling or landfill really addresses the problems inherent with disposable societies.

  7. My local government / waste management company provides a financial incentive for contamination by charging for trash bags but making recycling free. So the actual slogan is: "When in doubt don't spend money to throw it out."

    But VOX, if you're listening, here's what I want to know: Every time the trash truck comes by it appears that all the trash and recyclables are going into the same bin in the same truck. What gives? If it's all going into the same bin in the same truck then who cares about sorting anything?

  8. The answer is to be even more single stream. The recyclables have to be sorted out by workers anyways. Extend that to compostables and anything else that doesn't have to go to the landfill.

  9. Hang on, so the logic is "if in doubt, throw it out"? How about just google it and look up what is the right thing to do in your area?! Or better yet, reduce waste in general! It's 2019 ffs, we are talking about living on Mars but have not heard of a keep cup for your coffee? Seriously?…

  10. This video would have been a great place to mention the need for cleaning recyclables w food residue before placing them in the bin. At least in my area it is a cause for rejection (contamination) as well. It is something people can actively do something about.

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