We’ve all looked at a pizza box or a Slurpee cup and wondered, “Is this recyclable or not?” And if we’re honest, we’ve all tossed the item into our recycling cart anyway, hoping it will magically end up wherever it can be recycled into something shiny and new. The recycling industry has a name for this: wishcycling.
In some cases, our haphazard efforts are causing recycling loads to be rejected due to contamination. What happens to contaminated loads (weighing 5 tons each)? They have to be redirected to the landfill and are never recycled at all. Because so many Orange County residents are flunking at recycling, we’re helping the Orange County Solid Waste Division educate residents about how to recycle properly.
Test your family’s recycling knowledge to see if your recycling cart would pass the test.
You’ve been hearing about Pizza Bruno from everyone you know, so you decide to try it out and grab a pie to take home. It was delish, but which bin should the empty box go in?
The trash bin! Used pizza boxes are not recyclable because the paper fibers used to make the box can no longer be separated from the grease. Same goes for Chinese food boxes or any other paper-based container contaminated with greasy food.
An irritating toy with blinking lights and annoying music needs new batteries. Again. Which bin should the old batteries go in?
The trash bin. Single-use alkaline batteries no longer contain hazardous components, so they can be disposed of in the trash.
She has more than me!” … Sometimes it seems like your kids actually count the Cheerios in the bowl — oh, the joys of sibling rivalry! After an epic breakfast battle, the cereal box is finally empty. Which bin should it go in?
The recycling bin! The box is recyclable, but the bag is not. Boxes that are not contaminated with food (like cereal boxes, shoeboxes and way too many Amazon Prime boxes) can be recycled. Milk and juice cartons can also go in the recycling bin after being rinsed.
You had good intentions of making a healthy Pinterest dip using that plain Greek yogurt in the fridge, but it just never happened. Now it’s looking kind of off-white and soupy; it’s time to toss it. Which cart should the container go in?
The recycling bin! Plastics marked with the numbers 1 through 5 are recyclable. But here’s the thing: you have to scoop the yogurt into the garbage and give the container a thorough rinse. If you don’t, you may be contributing to load contamination.
The school papers are never-ending… Add that to the stack of mail on the table and the IKEA catalogs in the living room — all of it has to go. Which cart should paper go in?
The recycling bin! Most paper is part of the curbside recycling program, so toss in all those worksheets with the weird new math, newspapers and even this magazine at some point — it’s recyclable!
Deep down you know the Styrofoam (polystyrene) container you brought your leftovers home in might not be recyclable. But it’s 2018 — they’ve probably figured out a way to do it by now, right? Which bin should you toss the container in?
not part of the curbside recycling program — even if you rinse it out. Technically, polystyrene can be recycled, but it’s very complex and costly, so most community recycling programs do not allow polystyrene.
The trash bin! Polystyrene is definitely
oops!). But you swear you’ll do better next time, so no need to keep the plastic bags. What bin should you put them in?
You forgot to bring reusable shopping bags on your last trip to buy a bunch of stuff you didn’t know you needed at Target — and it’s not the first time (
Neither! You shouldn’t put any plastic bags in the recycling cart (including trash bags). They get tangled in the equipment at the processing center and can cause costly disruptions. But you shouldn’t put the bags in the trash bin either. Instead, take them right back to Target. They’ll recycle the bags for you, as will most national grocery retailers.
Your living room is starting to look like Santa’s workshop, so it’s time to thin out the toy collection. You have a basket of toys to donate, but what about the broken stuff? It’s plastic, so should you recycle it?
The trash bin! The broken toys may be plastic, but they aren’t the kind of plastic that can be recycled in the curbside recycling program. Only plastic containers marked 1 through 5 are eligible for recycling in local recycling programs. The reality is that almost every plastic toy your child ever plays with will ultimately end up in the landfill. That’s something to think about…
Curbside recycling programs vary by city and county, so be sure to check the guidelines where you live. For more information about recycling in Orange County, visit ocfl.net/recycles or call the Solid Waste Hotline at 407-836-6601. If you live in the City of Orlando, check out the interactive What Goes Where tool at cityoforlando.net/solidwaste.