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Keeping it Clean: Auditing the Recycling Stream

Keeping it Clean: Auditing the Recycling Stream

askHRgreen.org LogoWhen it comes to recycling in Hampton Roads, there are two main goals: to recycle regularly and to recycle right! The first one seems pretty easy to do. Simply fill up the bin and set it out on the designated pickup day (or for some, drop it off at our neighborhood convenience center). Recycling right, however, requires digging a little deeper to know exactly what can and cannot be thrown into the bin. What shouldn’t be tossed in with the recyclables is considered contamination or “residue” and not only does it compromise the value of the materials that can be processed, but it can cause big headaches and safety concerns for those responsible for collecting and processing the materials.

Recently, the folks at askHRGreen.org got to tag along with a local jurisdiction during a recycling audit to see how residents’ recycling habits are measuring up. The good news is there was plenty to sort through, but there was also plenty of room for improvement. Of the total volume of materials collected and sorted, one third was “residue” that should have never been placed in the curbside recycling bin in the first place. Here is a glimpse at some of the most common culprits found during the audit:

  • Plastic bags and wraps – These cannot go in your curbside bin, but they can and should be collected and returned to your local grocery store where they can be properly recycled.
  • Yard waste – This can be picked up by your city/county, but it never goes into your curbside recycling bin.
  • Liquids/food waste – Please empty food and beverage containers before recycling them.
  • Diapers – Disposable diapers are definitely not recyclable and should be disposed of in the trash.
  • Polystyrene (Styrofoam) – Styrofoam does not go in the bin.
  • Cords/hoses/ropes – Not recyclable and can really get tangled up and do a number on the machinery that processes the materials.
  • Plastic toys/holiday decorations – Just because it is made of plastic does not mean it is recyclable. Think primarily about recycling just bottles, jugs and jars.

If you put your curbside bin to the test, how do you think you’d measure up? Have you tossed in any of those culprits listed above? Want to brush up on your knowledge of what can and cannot be recycled in your city or county?

Check out askHRgreen.org’s handy dandy Recycle More, Trash Less poster and take note before you take aim and toss something into the bin that doesn’t belong there.

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