Waste Management "myth-busting" tips offered as part of America Recycles Day celebrations
Tips from WM meant to help educate the public about current, common misconceptions in waste and recycling
America Recycles Day (November 15) is an annual initiative by the organization Keep America Beautiful to promote recycling in the United States. The day is meant to shine a light on the reality that while Americans want and try to recycle, knowledge gaps are preventing us from recycling as smartly and safely as we can. Spreading awareness of proper recycling practices is critical to mitigating the recycling contamination challenges we face in our cities and as a nation, and in ensuring a cleaner, more sustainable future for us all.
The following "myth-busting" tips from Waste Management Inc. are meant to help educate the public about current, common misconceptions about recycling.
[Also see our interview this week with WM's VP of Recycling Brent Bell. }
• MYTH #1: Most Americans recycle all they can. Convenience and commitment are required for maximum recycling. Ask yourself: is there more than one location in a household to store recyclables? If not, recyclables in areas outside the kitchen can get thrown away. Additionally, is there only one committed recycler in your household (the person who picks up after everyone)? Studies indicate making recycling a family/partner affair - where everyone participates - leads to the most recycling of the right materials.
• MYTH #2: Containers must be squeaky clean in order to be recycled. While all bottles, cans, and containers should be clean, dry, and free of most waste before you recycle them - they don't need to be spotless. Just make sure they're clean enough to avoid contaminating other materials, like paper. Try using a spatula to scrape cans and jars, or using a small amount of water and shake to remove most residue.
• MYTH #3: It doesn't matter if something does not belong in the recycling cart, the hauler will sort everything anyway. There are increasing amounts of non-recyclables and items that require special handling sent to Material Recovery Facilities. Every single one of them must be removed by hand by trained staff and/or mechanically sorted...or they end up contaminating high-value recyclables. Non-recyclable garbage and materials requiring special handling placed in recycling increases the cost of the recycling process as well as the cost of waste and recycling collection services.
- What's one of the biggest contaminants? Plastic bags. Plastic bags become wrapped around sorting equipment, requiring all machinery to be shut down. Workers must climb into the machinery to cut plastic bags out of gears and screens. Thankfully, an impactful and straightforward solution is to skip the bag and place recyclables directly into your container.
In honor of America Recycles Day this year, Waste Management sponsored every America Recycles Day activity, in partnership with Keep America Beautiful and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, from Nov. 11 - 15.
Activities kicked off this week with a presentation of the Recycling Hero Award, recognizing a veteran or active military personnel who exhibits an outstanding commitment to recycling. The week continued with an EPA and Keep America Beautiful Forum, an Innovation Fair featuring the greenest programs, and the America Recycles Summit in Washington, D.C.