Often times we think it is safer to toss something in the recycling bin, rather than the trash, just in case it is recyclable. We call this “wish-cycling.” Wish cycling creates big problems, as one wrong toss can contaminate a whole batch. When this happens, entire loads can be sent to the landfill despite a few bad apples.
So, what can your business do to prevent wish cycling and contamination?
- When in doubt, throw it out. Do not put plastic bags or film, wires, string lights (or other tangly items), clothing, food, black plastic, or paper cups, towels, or tissues in the recycling. Plastic bags and tanglers clog the sorting machines, which is dangerous for workers.
- Recycle right: Only put items in the bin that you know can go in the bin. Recycle clean and dry bottles, cans, and containers (they don’t need to be spotless, just free of most residue) and dry paper and cardboard.
- Get recycling updates: At least once a year, ask your hauler, transfer station, or local solid waste district what can go in your bin (find local waste management organizations at com).
- Put signs on bins: Label recycling or trash bins with signs that describe what can go in them. If your hauler or waste district don’t have signs specific to your region, you can use the VT Agency of Natural Resource’s free bin signs. (vermont.gov/sites/dec/files/wmp/SolidWaste/Images/VTANR-Bin-SIGNS-8.5×11.pdf).
- Spread the word! Tell other business, your employees and your customers how recycling better can help Vermonters save money and take care of this great state we all love so much.
Written by Emma Stuhl, Josh Kelly and Catherine Craig of DEC.