3 Ways to Recycle More Efficiently

After reducing the number of waste we produce, we should next reuse what we consume. Think of plastic bags, cardboard, bottles, containers, and etc. Once we can no longer reuse those materials, it is time to recycle. Different facilities accept different items in their recycling program, so get in the know before you get started! It is more than tossing items in a bin though. Without knowing the items listed below, you may be costing facilities time and money as they make up for your negligence. Here are three ways to recycle efficiently.

Rinse Out the Container

Facilities will clean the materials, but it makes it easier on them if you clean out your recyclables beforehand. Too much food, grease, or whatever else will contaminate the material and they will end up sending it off to a landfill.

For jars, containers, and cans, you can rinse them thoroughly with water and be just fine. A couple of small spots in your sour cream container are not going to cause any problems. Other sticky materials, like honey, may need a little bit of scrubbing to clean the majority out. As long as most of the food is rinsed out, recycling centers will not be griping about you. You do not need to break out the dish soap and make them spotless though.

Recycle Only the Recyclable Parts

This is something you will need to contact your local facility about. Depending on what they accept, you may have to separate some items before putting it in the bin. Other stained or saturated materials cannot be recycled either, especially cardboard. Many people think you cannot recycle a pizza box, and they are right if it has a lot of grease stains on it. Boxes that have some crumbs and a couple of small spots are generally accepted though. It is also important to note that cardboard has two sides, so you can easily tear out the grease-stained portion and recycle the rest.

Some facilities also only accept certain kinds of plastics. If you have an item that has part recyclable and non-recyclable pieces, you can separate them. This will help you make the most of your items and send fewer products to a landfill.

When In Doubt, Leave It Out

Quite simply, if you do not know if a particular item can be recycled, do not put it in the recycling bin. Odds are, those at the facility will have to throw it away, not to mention you risk contaminating the recyclable materials. Double check the information in your area so you know specifically what they accept.

Your paper coffee cup, though mostly paper, cannot be recycled. The cup is coated in a kind of plastic or wax to keep the liquid from burning your fingertips. In order to be recycled, the two materials would have to be separated (and good luck trying). If you put it in your recycling bin, the workers at the recycling facility will have to throw it out.


There is more that comes with recycling than people first let on. It requires a little more time to prep your materials for the facility and inform yourself on what they will accept. By putting forth that effort though, you can increase the good that you do for the environment.

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Lacey Jolley

I love exploring, experiencing new places, and eating good food! I'm amazed every day at how well the Earth provides for us, and I want to return the favor. I hope to help others learn how we can make our world a better, cleaner place.

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