When choosing a residential recycling service, it’s easy to overlook certain aspects of sustainability in favor of finding a more convenient resource. As we move forward into the 21st century, more households are utilizing curbside recycling services, as U.S. curbside recycling programs account for recycling approximately 11.9 million tons of recyclable materials, equating to almost one-third of the total amount of recycled materials in the country. But while more people have caught on to the economic and environmental benefits of residential recycling, most households are still unsure of the exact guidelines and legalities associated with their curbside recycling provider.

From knowing what items your curbside recycling service accepts and rejects to understanding what exactly takes place throughout the recycling process, it’s important to better comprehend your recycling provider’s rules and regulations, so you can make the entire process simpler and more convenient for everyone involved. To make the most of your recycling program, here are some answers to four common questions regarding curbside recycling services.

What Materials Are Accepted For Recycling?

Let’s start by addressing arguably the most confusing and misinterpreted question: What materials are officially recyclable according to your curbside provider? While certain specific materials may vary by state-to-state, here’s an overall guideline to what materials are acceptable to be recycled and what materials are not:

Acceptable Materials:

●        Paper & Cardboard (must be flattened)

●        Glass Bottles & Jars

●        Metal Cans

●        Plastic Bottles, Jugs, & Tubs

●        Cartons (milk, juices, etc.)

●        All Items Should Not Be Bagged

Non-Acceptable Materials:

●        Plastic Bags

●        Tanglers (wires, hoses, electronics, chains, etc.)

●        Plastic or Foam Food Containers

●        Cups with Wax or Plastic Coatings

●        Any Items Containing Food or Liquid

●        Styrofoam

While this is the general list of what’s accepted and what’s not, you’ll want to reach out to your curbside recycling provider to get a final, detailed list of what can and cannot be recycled.

Why Aren’t All Plastics Recyclable?

Every plastic material has a number on it from 1-7 that identifies what type of resin or chemical it possesses. All of these chemicals react differently when processed for recycling, and while some of those numbers are able to be effectively processed to make new products or materials, some of those numbers may release certain toxins while being recycled that could contaminate any other materials it’s being processed with. Plastic numbers 1 and 2 are almost universally accepted by curbside recycling providers, while 3-7 vary by service, so be sure to check with your local recycling service to know which plastics they accept.

What Happens During the Recycling Process?

Practically all curbside recycling programs follow some semblance of the following checklist when it comes to recycling your materials:

●        Recyclable materials are collected, separated, and transported to a specific facility to be processed.

●        Depending on the material, they are either compressed, sorted, or cleaned in order to either be made into reusable fuel or to be passed on to become manufactured.

●        Fuel is delivered to power plants or energy facilities, while materials intended for manufacturing are sold to various companies that utilize the material for their products or goods.

Some recycling companies prioritize certain recycling processes over others, but in the end, they all specialize in helping your materials live on to be reused in a variety of efficient ways.

Why is Recycling Important to My Community?

For a community to thrive and flourish, it’s essential that everyone does their part, no matter how big or small, to contribute to its economic and environmental success that distinguishes the overall quality of life for all its inhabitants. In addition to reducing waste and extending the longevity of the everyday materials we use and dispose of, recycling produces a variety of benefits, ranging from increasing the amount of local jobs available to saving local businesses and resources millions of dollars every year.

What Do the Numbers on the Plastics Mean?

Seven major types of resins are used to make plastic, each with varying characteristics. Each number represents the specific type of resin the plastic was made from. It helps identify what chemicals are in them to help avoid purchasing certain products and ensure they are correctly recycled. 

How Do I recycle Items Not Accepted?

If you have items not accepted for recycling, such as electronics, batteries, chemicals, or paint, city, and county organizations typically accept these by donation. Some items may be reused and parted out, while others are hazardous and need unique disposal methods. Reaching out to local agencies can help you better understand where the items need to go and ensure they are disposed of or repurposed.

Why Do I Need to Flatten My Cardboard Boxes Before Recycling?

Recycling programs ask individuals to flatten their cardboard because the containers take up a lot of space in the bins. Flattening or breaking them down before taking them to a drop-off location or placing them by the curb saves space and gives you extra room for more recyclable items.

Why Can't I Bag My Recyclables?

The biggest problem with bagging recyclables is they can get caught in the sorting machine gears as they go through the process. This can damage the machines and create extra work for the individuals who sort the materials. Plastic bags are completely recyclable, and most grocery stores will provide a receptacle specifically for repurposing them.

Can I Recycle a Pizza Box?

The primary concern with pizza boxes is if there is contamination from grease inside them. Because the oil is very difficult to remove and can affect the paper fibers while going through the pulping process. So, if your pizza box is free of contaminants, please be sure to add this to your bin.

Help Better Your Community With Curbside Recycling Service

At the end of the day, the more informed you are about how recycling improves your community, your country, and your planet, the more efficiently you can utilize your curbside recycling service to make the entire process more effective and simpler for everyone.

At LJP Waste Solutions, we specialize in residential recycling services that ensure your materials are being productively processed and utilized for sustainable practices, so you can rest assured that you’re actively doing your part to contribute to a better economy and environment. Contact LJP Waste Solutions today to learn more about our curbside recycling program, or give us a call at 507.625.1968 to speak one-on-one with one of our waste management specialists.