While the increasing dedication and a growing rate of
participation of the general public in recycling is good news, residents put
everything they believe could or should be recycled in the designated
It’s important to understand that the slightest bits of
non-recyclables in a load of recycling could prevent the entire load from being
recycled. In other words, if you’re not recycling right, you could be
preventing tons of items from ever seeing a second life.
Learn about this global challenge and join in the battle
against recycling contamination.
Back in early years, many of us became accustomed to a
different type of recycling program than what we have today. People used to
separate items with care every week so that paper, plastics, and aluminum are
processed into different material streams. No non-recyclables would make their
way into them.
With the introduction of single-stream containers in the early
2000s, businesses and residents could simply put all recyclables in a single cart,
which would then be sent to a sorting facility to separate the items. This made
it remarkably convenient for households, so participation and recycling rates to
soared to peak levels. Recycling entered its boom years as the world began to
recycle millions of tons more for the benefit of environment and communities.
However, the complexity of products and packaging
simultaneously increased, altering people’s understanding of what’s recyclable
and what’s not. Simply compare the plastic bottles of today with those used 15
years ago. They are a lot lighter and thinner than they used to be. The
packaging of products that we buy today is now made up of a wide variety of
Thus, items like rubber hoses, plastic bags, low-grade plastics,
wires, and organic matter such as liquid, food, and yard waste are finding
their way into single-stream containers. As a result, the proportion of trash
mixed with recyclables or the contamination rate has gradually surged over the
past couple of decades. It’s no wonder that 1 in 4 items put in a recycling
container today are not recyclable, indicating an average contamination rate
among businesses and communities of 25%. seriously disturbing the recycling
One of the most daunting issues faced by the recycling
economy is that contamination greatly increases the cost of recycling. To make
things worse, the recyclables derived from light and more complex plastics are
being sold for considerably less. The higher complexity and cost to process
these items, coupled with fallen commodity prices, has put the financial
sustainability of recycling at a tremendous risk.
Moreover, recycling contamination directly affects the
quality of recyclables that later enter into the commodity markets. For
instance, when high-quality cardboard and paper come into contact with any
liquids or foods placed in the recycling container, they become saturated and
considerably lose their quality. Tons and tons of cardboard and paper lose
their recyclability this way, ending up in trash.
In reality, all that is happening at a massive scale. And
remember, there are a lot more contaminants than liquids and foods. The quality
of recyclables going into the commodity markets is greatly impacted by any
trash that goes in recycling streams. The greater the recycling contamination,
the lesser can be recycled. That’s the global challenge we’re faced with.
Now that you have a clear idea about the problem, read on to
learn what role you can play in the battle against recycling contamination:
How You Can Help Reduce Recycling Contamination
Think Twice Before Placing Items in the Recycle Cart
Make sure that the items are tossed in the correct recycling
stream. If you unsure about what’s recyclable and what’s not, visit Ecomaine’s Recyclopedia and
enter the item in the search bar.
It won’t just tell you whether the item is recyclable or
trash, but it also explains what you should do about it. For instance, if you
enter ‘banana peel’ in the search bar, it tells you to compost it in your
garden, along with resources to guide you on the process.
Place All the Recycling Streams or Containers Together
When containers for different item types are spread out
across a facility, it becomes difficult for people to find the container
they’re looking for, prompting them to toss the item in the closest bin.
Placing the bins for recycling, trash, and other streams beside each other
should significantly reduce recycling contamination.
To further simplify the choice for consumers and make
handling easy for your staff, choose a bin with multiple streams. Many
companies now offer those.
Have Restrictive Openings on Recycle Containers
Sometimes, even when containers for recyclables and trash
are placed together, people accidentally throw items in the wrong stream. One
great strategy to minimize that is to have restrictive openings on bins to
further clarify to people where they should toss the items.
We recommend a thin and rectangular opening for paper items,
small and circular opening for beverage containers, and large square opening
for trash containers.
Keep Your Recycling Containers Clean
Finally, you can also contribute to reduce recycling
contamination by cleaning the recycling containers. This doesn’t have to be a
deep, thorough cleaning of every container. Just empty and rinse your
containers of all potential contaminants such as liquids, scrap pieces of food,
oil, or grease. This simple practice can incredibly reduce the chances of
To sum it up, recycling contamination is a strain to our
environment because it kills the underlying purpose of recycling. Any trash
that enter the recycling streams diminish the recyclability of recyclables,
turning them into trash. This only aggravates the environmental hazard arising
from waste. Moreover, when recyclables become trash or lose their quality, the
overall commodity market for them is adversely affected.
Following the above-discussed tips should help you battle
against recycling contamination. If you’re looking for effective waste management
solutions, get in touch with Century
Waste Management. We are here to address all your waste management needs. Century Waste Management is part of the Titan National Dumpster Rental Team.