Our Recycling Dilemma
For years, China purchased 70% of the world’s recyclables and repurposed them for profit. Put another way, they accepted seven million tons of recyclables annually, 700,000 tons from the US alone. However, in January of 2019 they reduced the amount of imported recyclables to less than one percent of the amount they took in 2016 because most of it was tainted with food waste, plastic film, and other contaminants making it difficult and expensive to recycle and not worth the effort. As a result, last year, the US started sending its recyclables to other Southeast Asian countries but most lack the capacity to recycle such high volumes or simply dispose of them safely. Further, these countries have cut back on imports. This leaves the US with roughly 680,000 tons of material to recycle domestically or send to landfills. Plastic takes hundreds of years to decompose and when it does, it becomes tiny particles which are consumed by sea life, threatening their existence and the purity of the food we ingest. To help us do our part to lessen this environmental burden it’s imperative we recycle wisely. Here are some tips for your recycling efforts:
- Plastics bearing the recyclable symbol with a #1 or #2 are recyclable, provided they are relatively clean. Facilities exist than can recycle plastics with numbers up to 7, but only put items with a #1 or #2 in your curbside pickup bin.
- Plastic bags are NOT recyclable curbside. These should be brought back to the store from where they came. Better yet, bring your reusable bags on any shopping trip to eliminate the problem entirely. Also, never throw your recyclables away in plastic bags as they get tangled in the recycling machines. Doing so will make your entire bin unrecyclable.
- Aluminum cans, foil and tins are recyclable curbside, provided they are clean and free of food waste.
- Paper and cardboard are recyclable curbside, provided they are free of contaminants. For example, pizza boxes (even those with a little residual grease) are recyclable but pizza boxes with food scraps and open dipping cups are not. Cut or fold all cardboard down to a size not larger than 4’ x 4’.
- Cords, hoses, and Christmas lights are not recycled curbside as they get tangled in the recycling machines. Best Buy and Staples have recycling programs that accept electronics cables and connectors.
- Hazardous materials, like products that are ignitable, corrosive or toxic, like paint, motor oil, fuel, poisons, or medical waste are not recyclable curbside. You can find information on where and when to bring such items on the City of Winter Park website listed below.
- Batteries are not recyclable curbside, especially rechargeable and lithium ion ones. You can also check the City of Winter Park website for locations to dispose of such items.
- Clean and dirty diapers are not recyclable. They should go in your regular trash.
- Electronics are not recyclable curbside. Check the City of Winter Park website for locations to dispose of such items.
- Food is not recyclable.
- Propane cylinders are not recyclable curbside but places that sell them will take them back.
- Multi-layer bags, pouches, and wrappers like potato chip bags are not recyclable. Put these in your regular trash.
- Newspapers, magazines and mail are all recyclable curbside.
- Bulky plastic items like plastic furniture, laundry baskets, and plastic playground sets are not recyclable curbside. Check the websites listed below for instructions on how to recycle these items.
- Clothes are not recyclable. Either take them to a resale store or donate them.
- Hangers are not recyclable curbside as they get tangled in recycling equipment. Bring your metal ones from the cleaners back to them for repurposing.
- Ceramics are not recyclable. Either donate them or put in your regular trash.
- Pure glass and glass jars are recyclable along with their lids. However, window panes, auto glass, and drinking glasses are not recyclable because they are not pure glass. Put these in your regular trash.
- Wood is not recyclable.
- Lightbulbs of any kind are not recyclable. Most home improvement stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot will take them off your hands and dispose of them properly.
- Styrofoam is not recyclable curbside. Bring styrofoam to stores like Publix and place it in their designated recycling container.
Questions? Visit http://cityofwinterpark.org and http://www.wasteprousa.com or call WastePro directly at 407-774-0800.