For too long, we’ve been allowing waste to pile in landfills across the globe. Not only does this directly hurt the environment, it also costs us precious resources that could have otherwise been conserved had we re-used old materials.

The reality is that Americans produce 254 million tons of waste every year, yet only 34.3% of it is recycled or composted. Studies show that if all of the recyclable materials in this waste stream were actually recycled, the U.S. would generate over $7 billion.

So why isn’t more trash recycled? The problem stems primarily from a lack of education. Many people in the U.S. simply don’t know which materials can be recycled and which cannot. Americans tend to make quite a few mistakes in their efforts to recycle. Here are just a few of them.

1. Forgetting about bottle caps

According to Do Something, a non-profit organization encouraging young people to work towards social change, Americans dispose of 25 million plastic bottles every hour. However, their plastic caps don’t always make it into the recycling bin with them. In the past, these bottle caps were not considered recyclable, but today, more and more recycling services are accepting the bottles and their caps together.

2. Recycling dirty paper

Unlike your regular garbage, items you toss in the recycling bin must be relatively clean. Americans go through 69 million tons of paper every year, accounting for 27% of our municipal waste. Unfortunately, the smallest amount of dirt or grease can ruin a whole bin of recyclable materials. You probably never thought of waste as being “clean,” but when it comes to recycling, items need to be suitable for reuse.

3. Failing to recycle glossy paper

Contrary to popular belief, glossy paper products like magazines and posters can be recycled. Few people realize this, which is why only 20% of magazines actually end up being recycled.

4. Throwing it all together

Many Americans fail to properly sort their recyclables. Some people don’t know, while others simply don’t care. However, keeping fiber products separate from glass and plastic containers is critical to the recycling process. If you sincerely don’t have the time to go through your recyclables, you can always hire a junk removal service to sort your items and remove them from your home or office.

5. Trying to recycle plastic bags

Plastic bags are not recyclable, which is why so many states and cities across the country are trying to pass laws banning them from grocery and retail stores. Every year, Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags, which either end up in landfills or litter our streets and oceans.

6. Failing to use a local recycling program

Over 87% of Americans have access to a curbside or drop-off recycling program, yet so few actually take advantage of this important service. Recycling is not difficult, especially if collectors are coming straight to your door to pick up your recyclable waste. The biggest mistake a person can make when it comes to recycling is not doing it at all.

7. Ignoring the rules

Did you know that not all glass products are recyclable? Are you aware of which types of plastic can be recycled or what the numbers on the plastic bottles stand for? One of the biggest mistakes Americans make is simply ignoring or misunderstanding the proper recycling procedures.

8. Trying to recycle shredded paper

We know now that paper is one of the most recyclable materials on the planet; however, there are certain conditions. Paper that’s been shredded into tiny pieces is difficult to collect and reuse, so instead of tossing your shreds in the recycling bin, why not use it for composting, confetti, or packing materials?

9. Trying to recycle frozen food containers

Paper boxes that are designed to hold frozen food have a layer of plastic polymer sprayed on them. Unfortunately, this coating prevents the box from properly breaking down during the recycling process. Consequently, these paper boxes are not recyclable.

Now that you’re equipped with all this knowledge, there’s no way you’re going to make mistake number seven on this list. All you have to do now is put everything you’ve learned into practice and spread the word about the importance of recycling.


This guest article was contributed by Jon Grobbelaar of Junk King.


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