Despite good intentions, there are some things that just can’t be saved, and may even do more harm by going through the recycling process. Everyday technology is advancing, but you’ll still find that certain items will have to be thrown out, and into a landfill. The following article is a list of common household items that you should never recycle, complete with full breakdowns explaining why they should avoid the recycle bin, and more importantly, whether or not it’s worth trying to compost them or to simply toss them into the trash.
Can You Recycle Bottle Caps?
This may come off as a shock, but those caps that come with your bottles of soda or juice aren’t recyclable, and the reason may surprise you. Indeed, many caps can be recycled on their own, however on the inside of both metal and plastic caps you’ll find a thin coating of plastic. You could contaminate the entire batch by melting these caps down. Before you can melt anything down, you should remember that all the materials have to be separated. Failing to do so would mean the material you would have gained can no longer be used. It’d be far too brittle, weak, or malleable. This idea will continue to present itself throughout the article, so keep it in mind as you continue reading.
I Thought My Makeup Was Recyclable
Yes, many companies have switched to using safe and non-toxic materials in their cosmetics, however some still refuse to make that change. Lipstick, foundations, hair products, even perfumes are all considered to generally be hazardous materials, and therefore unfit to be recycled. They contain carcinogenic and hormone disrupting ingredients that can cause sickness to spread within a community, as well as being unsafe for the environment.
The best way to get rid of old, unwanted beauty products is to contact your local disposal service, and be as specific as you can be about the product that you’re trying to get rid of. More information allows them to properly dispose of the product. It’s better to over share details than to be vague. For example, many perfumes don’t list their ingredients on bottles, so it may need to be disposed of in an entirely different manner.
However, some parts may still be recyclable. For example, some products (while containing toxic material) still come in glass or plastic containers, which can be recycled still. If you’d like to recycle these things, then be sure to dispose of the contents in the trash can, then clean out the container. Once again, the goal is to avoid pouring the contents down the drain at all, so try to clean them without the use of your sink. Rather than the sink, you can often use a paper towel or rag to get the bottles clean
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What to do With Old Take-Out Containers?
What makes up a pizza box? Cardboard. Guess what chinese pack boxes are made out of. Also cardboard. What do these products have in common? Contaminants. Think back to the bottle caps section, when we discussed the problem with mixing different materials. Food waste is also a part of that topic. The grease and fatty acids have already soaked deep into the cardboard, so it won’t matter how much cheese, noodles, or meat scraps you scrape off. Trying to recycle that would result in contamination of the material, and everything would then be sent to the landfill. As a rule of thumb, if you use any paperboard products with food, chances are there’s no way to effectively recycle it. It should be noted though that paperboard that has been in contact with food product can be composted, meaning you can put them in a compost bin or a trash bin without fretting over the environmental impact.
Can You Recycle Styrofoam?
Expanded Polystyrene (EPS), or more popularly known as Styrofoam, has been a heated topic for a long time. Many people say that because it should be just as recyclable as your papers or plastics because it is a synthetic material that breaks down easily. It is also widely accepted that you can simply burn EPS.
The fact is that styrofoam is recyclable, under certain conditions. If you put styrofoam in your recycling then you may find your bin is actually being thrown out, because companies can not mix it with other materials, and they don’t have the time or resources to pick it out. To make matters more complicated, only certain types of styrofoam can be recycled, the rest have to be thrown away. Only the PS 6 styrofoam is able to be recycled, and it will be marked on the backs of all the pieces of styrofoam. If you don’t see that PS 6 symbol on the back, it’s no good to recycle.
It can be dangerous to burn styrofoam at home. Burning polystyrene will result in the release of deadly black carbon and carbon monoxide into the atmosphere. You will both be harming the environment, as well as anyone nearby by burning styrofoam, as it puts all around at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. About 500 people a year die from carbon monoxide poisoning, and almost 30,000 more are hospitalized. Needless to say, it’s just better to let the professionals handle it.
Despite this, there are some alternate ways to “recycle” styrofoam. One example would be donating your styrofoam to Publix, a company located in southern USA, which reuses old styrofoam to package their own products. You should get online and look for one of the many other companies throughout the nation that offer similar programs. If you can’t find a nearby business with this offer then reach out to your local recycling plant for a no-hassle drop off so that they can dispose of it.
Can Shredded Paper Be Recycled?
Shredded paper is another hot topic in the recycling world, and with good reason. The problem is more with the logistics of recycling shredded paper than it is with any environmental impact. On average, one american uses about seven trees per year for paper, and out of all of the recycled paper, we only get back about 66% of it for re-use. It’s harder to recycle shredded paper than regular paper so many companies will refuse to take it, and even the ones that do will force you to separate them into their own clear bags.
The short and sweet of it is to not shred paper. This isn’t a reasonable thing though, as often shredded paper has sensitive information on it that shouldn’t be easily accessible to the public. As a compromise, you should only shred documents with important information on them, such as checking account information, credit card numbers, anything involving your social security, etc. This way you at least minimize your shredded paper count and recycling plants can maximize as much as they can from the process.
Are Milk and Juice Cartons Recyclable?
It is widely believed that juice boxes and milk cartons are recyclable. From a purely texture standpoint, they don’t look or feel very different from cardboard or paper-like materials. In truth, they are. These items are around 85% paperboard. The issue with juice boxes and milk cartons is that they have a thin lining of plastic on the inside, Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE #4). It keeps the walls of the container safe from dissolving due to exposure to the contents. You’ll need to remember that you can’t mix materials when recycling, so if you throw a bunch of empty juice boxes into your recycling then it may all be thrown away, destroying your hard work.
The way companies have attempted to address this issue is by switching their containers to being purely plastic. The simple solution to this is to buy strictly plastic bottles of juice and milk. Though it may mean using more plastic, the best way to recycle is to cut out the middleman in the process, and in this case that means cutting out your use of these harmful boxes and cartons. Once again, the idea is to reuse as much as possible, and mixing materials will just end up in a landfill anyway.
Diapers and Recycling
Given that the average diaper can take up to 500 years to fully decompose in a landfill, many people want to find a way to recycle the item and cut down on clutter that can so easily overwhelm landfills. Again, you have to think about the logistics of it. Your average diaper contains not just paper, but plastic as well. As well, you’d have to remove all possible contaminants from the diapers to ensure the remainder of the plan stays clean and functioning. Realistically, it’s just not possible to safely recycle diapers.
There’s more than one way to dispose a a diaper though! Thanks to the massive market for these items, eco-friendly diapers are currently widely available. They spend less time in a landfill thanks to the high decomposition rate.
Can Ceramics be Recycled?
Typically ceramics are made from clay that has been heated and shaped. Known as sinter, the process involves partially melting the materials used, then allowing them to cool and solidify together in order to maintain their shape. In a sense, it is very similar to glass. However, similar and the same are two very different things. You cannot recycle ceramic. It’s not a material that is easily salvageable, so when your plates and mugs break, your only real option for disposal is trash. You should note that, depending on the amount of clay in the product, you may still be able to compost them.
You can try personally reusing your old pieces of ceramic instead of sending them to the landfill, given that you can’t recycle them. For example, if you have a coffee mug with a broken handle, simply sand it down and turn it into a pot for plants. Broken pieces can also be used for arts and crafts projects, like an elaborate mosaic. Ceramic that’s been filed down might even make for a type of gravel.
Are Plastic Bags Recyclable?
Plastic bags are a big problem. Aside from plastic bottles, plastic bags make up a large percentage of waste in our landfills, our oceans and our national parks. However, these too, cannot be recycled. Most recycling plants won’t be willing to take in these bags because of the potential hazard they pose to their equipment, including possibly getting stuck in the gears of trust and other machinery. There’s a fairly simple solution to this issue: Don’t use plastic bags. The only feasible means of keep them out of the environment, due to the lack of means to recycle them, is to stop using them all together. Since both paper and reusable bags have risen in popularity, only luxury is a reason to continue using plastic bags. In short, it’s best to simply buy a batch of reusable bags and keep them in the car, that way you cut down on your carbon footprint and all the while cutting costs from big corporations for production.