We all want to do our part to keep the planet clean, healthy, and thriving for future generations. But if living a completely zero-waste or plastic-free lifestyle is out of the question for your family (don’t worry, it is for most of us!), there are still ways to practice sustainability. For starters, consider recycling! It’s a small step (with a big impact) that we can all be taking.
We’ve rounded up some common misconceptions about recycling. Plus, for the recycling resisters out there, we’ve added some tips to help you and your family get started with your own recycling routine.
MYTH: The only things you can recycle are paper, cardboard, glass, aluminum, and some plastics.
FACT: You can also recycle electronics, textiles, batteries, cars and car parts, foam, steel – tons of things! Use IWantToBeRecycled.org to find out where you can drop off items like these in your community.
MYTH: You must remove your beverage container cap before recycling.
FACT: Recyclers want your caps and lids, too. A tip: caps can slip off conveyor belts during the recycling process, so when you empty a bottle, crush it, cap it, and toss it in the recycling bin. Pro Tip: If you still rely on plastic water bottles to stay hydrated when you’re on the go, it’s time to break up! Buy a reusable aluminum, glass, or bpa-free plastic water bottle -- you’ll save money and keep litter out of landfills.
MYTH: You must rinse out every drop of lotion, soap, or shampoo before recycling the bottle.
FACT: Plastics will be cleaned at the recycling facility. Be sure to reduce waste by using all the product in the bottle, then lightly rinse and recycle it.
MYTH: Plastic bags are plastic, therefore they can go straight into your blue bin.
FACT: We wish! The truth is, while plastic bags can be recycled, most curbside pickup services do not accept them. Be sure to check your city’s website to confirm. Also, use this online directory to search for drop-off bins nearby where you can recycle your plastic bags.
MYTH: Your pizza box is cardboard, so it can be recycled.
FACT: Cardboard boxes can only be recycled if they are clean and haven’t been contaminated with oil, grease, or food remnants - liquid or dry. So, there’s a good bet that your pizza box (or other takeout food container) needs to go in the regular trash bin.
MYTH: Anything with a recycle symbol on it can be recycled.
FACT: Not so fast! Notice that small number in the middle of the “chasing arrows” recycling symbol? That’s a Resin Identification Code which identifies the type of plastic present in the package. These numbers aren’t for consumers so much as they are for your recycling facility--and they do NOT guarantee that an item is automatically recyclable. Double and triple check your local recycling guidelines and, if you have to, ASK which types of plastics are accepted. Depending on your city or town, there are different rules.
MYTH: You have to remove labels on your plastic containers before they go into the recycling bin.
FACT: In most cases, this is false (hallelujah, right?!). Unless advised by your local recycling center, it is NOT mandatory to remove the labels off of your glass jars, plastic bottles and other containers. The labels will be removed during the recycling process. Cue a huge sigh of relief!
Ready to up your family's recycling game? We've got 8 tips to get you started!
TIP #1 – Buy a bin...or two...or three...
Keep a designated recycle bin in every room of the house (especially the nursery, office, and bathroom), not just the kitchen. You’re more likely to remember
TIP #2 – Post a Pic.
Post visuals near your recycling bin (or bins!) to remind your family what they can and can’t recycle. Most curbside recycling services provide guidance online, so keep it handy for adults and kiddos alike.
TIP #3 – Craft and Create.
Kids are super inventive, so let them take trash and make it into treasures by crafting and upcycling. While you’d typically toss your shampoo bottles, glass pasta sauce jars, and water bottles, see what the kids can create with them! Here are some fun ideas to get their creative juices flowing!
TIP #4 – Break It Down.
For personal care products, break down your bottles and discard any pumps and caps before recycling the bottles. Anything smaller than a credit card (about 2 inches) can’t be recycled as it gets caught in the machinery.
TIP #5 – Rely on Refillables.
Look into companies that offer refillables and cleaning concentrates. For example, you recycle the tiny concentrate container (we call ours “pods”!) and reuse the spray bottle every time you need a refill.
TIP #6 – Consider Composting.
Food waste is a thing, too! Don’t forget that you can recycle your food scraps by composting. Check out this helpful guide to get started, and be sure to check your city’s website to see if composting resources are available locally.
TIP #7 – Plan a Family FUNction.
If your city does not offer recycling curbside pickup, it doesn’t mean there are no recycling centers in your area. It’ll take a bit more effort (and research!) on your part, but check online or ask around to locate your nearest independent recycling facility. Then schedule a monthly recycling day for your family. Believe it or not, kiddos love sorting the recyclables and if your recycling center pays by weight or count, let them keep the spoils. ;)
TIP #8 – Remember Your R's.
Always remember to “reduce” and “reuse” first. While recycling is the next best thing, reducing and reusing are always more sustainable in the long run. Check out our tips for reducing waste at home -- and involving your little ones in the process!
Does your family recycle? Please share your tips with us in the comments!