Americans throw $600 million worth of aluminum cans in the garbage each year. Recycled, those cans would save 95 percent of their original energy cost. Cans aren’t the only materials made from precious, recyclable resources. In fact, everything from glass to paper and metal to plastic can be processed into new materials.
To get started recycling all you need is a set of bins and a little know-how. And don’t forget to check your local government for exactly what recyclables it accepts.
Paper recycling is easy: As long as it’s 100 percent paper, it can be recycled. Newspapers, cardboard, magazines and phone books are all recyclable. So are junk mailings, paper bags, cereal boxes and wrapping paper. Watch out for tape, foil, glitter and plastic coatings, however, as those are not recyclable. You can toss your cardboard milk carton in the recycle bin because there’s a market for recycled cartons. Envelopes with windows and mailing labels are also safe to recycle.
Not all types of glass can be recycled. Bottles and jars are made from a different type of glass than windows, drinking glasses and cookware; if they’re mixed together, the resulting product will be flawed. Put only glass bottles and jars in your recycling bin and leave all other types of glass out. Be sure to remove all lids: Metal lids can be recycled with other metal items. Rinse your containers, and keep them separate from the rest of your recycling. Broken glass can mix with other materials and wind up breaking the machines used to process recyclables.
Recycle cans, aluminum foil, scrap metal and anything else that is 100 percent metal and small enough to fit in your recycling bin. Rinse your cans, but don’t crush them. If you have loose lids from soup or tuna cans, place them inside the original can and bend the can slightly so the lid won’t fall out. Do the same with other small items, because if small metal pieces are mixed with paper, they can harm processing machinery.
Check all your items and remove any plastic pieces, rubber, wood and paper. If your metal piece is bigger than 30 inches by 8 inches or heavier than 30 lbs., you’ll have to take it to a scrap metal recycling facility instead of leaving it curbside.
Look at the bottom of your plastic containers. They should be stamped with a symbol that looks like three arrows in a triangle, with a number at the center. That number is the recycling code, and you’ll need it to sort plastic. Check with your waste management provider to find out what types of plastic it recycles: Most providers will accept code 1, but few will take code 7. Only the accepted types of plastic go into the recycling bin.
Rinse containers and remove the lids, which are not recyclable. Leave out plastic bags, which you can reuse or recycle at a recycling center; bottles that have contained hazardous materials or motor oil; and Styrofoam products.