One of the most common things I see the average person confused about in our industry is the rules around recycling. That’s because they’re not exactly black and white.
What hard and fast recycling rules you’ve known in the past, may now be very different. Rules, bans, and regulations change fairly frequently.
As recycling centers continue to expand and upgrade their machinery, what you can and can’t recycle changes too. In an effort to help communicate these rules and fill in any existing gaps, I’ve compiled some of the most recent rules of recycling to help your business operate more efficiently.
As always, be sure to double-check the requirements of your local area.
Aluminum cans: To crush, or not to crush..?
Long-time recyclers have always been told to crush their aluminum cans. But times have changed, and crushed cans aren’t really as beneficial as you might think. If you have a soda or beverage vending machine in your breakroom, this is for you.
For those who are part of a multiple-stream recycling program (sorting your cans in separate bins), feel free to crush away. But if all your recycling is tossed into one bin, keep your cans intact. It may take up more space, but it’s easier and better for recycling centers to distinguish what’s what when sorting.
Bottle caps: On or off?
Here’s another reversed ruling that applies to breakroom beverages. Unlike the rules of yesteryear, The Association of Plastic Recyclers says that the plastic screw off caps you find on soda bottles (and milk jugs) should stay ON when you recycle. In fact, it’s become increasingly apparent that bottle cap recycling is necessary.
In 2016, a program designed to remove waste debris from shorelines, found almost 5,000 bottle caps washed up on an island’s beach. But, and this is a big but, some facilities still won’t accept bottle caps for a few reasons. Sometimes, caps are made from a different plastic material than the rest of the bottle. And, they can pose a safety hazard. When bottles are compressed at high temperatures, pressure can cause the cap to shoot off and bounce around in a center.
Bottom line, always check your local requirements.
Plastic film: Fair or foul?
Contrary to popular belief, you can recycle plastic film (like the stretch wrap you find around pallets). However, this thin type of plastic, which you’ll also find in grocery bags, requires different processing equipment than curbside recycling programs offer.
There’s a reason Katy Perry sings, “Do you ever feel like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?” Plastic bags can “drift through the wind” in a standard recycling center, getting blown into places they don’t belong and jamming up machinery.
The bottom line on plastic film: find a partner to help you establish a recycling program for all that stretch wrap. Instead of harming our environment, your wasted wrap can extend its life to become composite lumber. That’s so much cooler.
We hope this cleans up any conflicting information, so you and your business can become better recyclers. But while we try to provide the most accurate and updated information, the unfortunate truth is that not every city has updated recycling equipment.
Want more recycling insight? Check out our blog on The Golden Rules of Recycling.