Have you ever wondered if the things you put in your recycling bin are really getting recycled? Well you’re not the only one. Over 100 people joined us at our November Grow Smart CLT event to hear from Mecklenburg County Solid Waste Services about how to recycle right.
It turns out that it’s not so easy to recycle correctly, and many of us are “wishful” recyclers...throwing all types of plastics, paper, and other items into those blue bins in the hope that they’ll be recycled. But as we learned, you can’t just go by the number anymore, and if the wrong things end up in a load of recyclables, that load isn’t able to be sold post-processing. So it ends up going in the landfill anyway. Other items are too small or too gummy to work correctly with the machinery at Mecklenburg County’s recycling facility, so they end up falling through screens, causing major mechanical problems, or even starting fires at the facility.
Here are a few of the top tips we learned:
1. You can only recycle plastic containers that have a neck smaller than the body of the container (water bottles, detergent bottles, 2-liter soda bottles, etc.). If it doesn’t meet these criteria, it CAN NOT currently be recycled curbside in Mecklenburg Co.
2. Shredded paper can not be recycled curbside, because it’s so small it will fall through the screens at the facility.
3. While plastic bags are not able to be processed by the County, many grocery stores have collection points where you can return your plastic bags. Pro tip: You can also bring other thin plastics, like sealed-air bags that come with packages (just cut them to release the air first).
4. Bottle caps are too small to be recycled on their own, but if you leave them screwed on the bottle, they can be recycled.
5. Tin/steel cans and aluminum cans can be recycled, but the food/drink in them can’t. Make sure you wash them out first!
Many communities are facing a recycling crisis since overseas countries stopped purchasing recyclables. Luckily Mecklenburg County doesn’t ship its recyclables overseas, but the places they do send them have been filling up as more communities have to keep their products in the US. Which makes it even more important for our recyclables to be as pure as possible.