6 Things You’re Recycling Wrong
We have all done it: a greasy pizza box, a disposable coffee cup, the odd plastic bag. Sometimes, we want things to be recyclable, so we put them in the recycling bin.
Waste managers often call this wishful or aspirational recycling. But, unfortunately, putting these objects in with the rest of the recycling can do more harm than good. While rules differ in every municipality (check your local recycling website to find out what’s acceptable), we have picked out some key offenders to keep in mind.
Too many of these items will contaminate a batch of recycling. That means waste managers might not be able to find buyers for the materials — especially now that China, one of the world’s main importers of recyclable waste, has said it will reject shipments that are more than 0.5 percent impure. Contaminated loads could be sent to the landfill instead.
Your disposable coffee cup might seem like it can be recycled, but most single-use cups are lined with a fine film of polyethylene, which makes the cups liquid-proof but also difficult and expensive to reprocess (because the materials have to be separated). Most waste management facilities will treat the cups as trash.
If you’re putting these cups in with your recycling, they are likely contaminating the rest of the materials, said Jim Ace, a senior campaigner at Stand.earth, an environmental group. In an experiment this year, the group affixed electronic trackers inside Starbucks cups, put the cups in recycling bins in Denver, then traced them to a landfill.
“There’s no way a consumer would know if a cup was lined,” Mr. Ace said, so it’s best to throw it away. (You can also check if your local recycler has special equipment to handle coffee cups; some do, a Starbucks spokeswoman said. The New York City Department of Sanitation says it accepts “paper cups with non-paper lining.”)
埃斯表示，“消费者不可能知道一个杯子是否有内衬”，所以最好把它扔掉（你也可以查一查当地的回收公司是否有专门处理咖啡杯的设备。星巴克的一位发言人表示，有些地方有。纽约市卫生部(The New York City Department of Sanitation)表示，它接受“带有非纸质内衬的纸杯”）。
The plastic lid might be recyclable in your area; check the number inside it against your local recycling guidelines.
Greasy pizza boxes
Pizza boxes are among the most common offenders when it comes to contamination, waste managers say. The problem is that oil often seeps into the cardboard. The oil cannot be separated from the fiber, making that material less valuable, and less marketable, to buyers.
But that’s not to say you can never recycle a pizza box, said Marjorie Griek, executive director of the National Recycling Coalition, which promotes recycling in the United States. “If you’ve got a few crumbs in there, that’s not an issue,” she said.
倡导垃圾回收的美国全国回收联盟(National Recycling Coalition)总干事玛乔丽·格里克(Marjorie Griek)表示，这并不是说，你绝不能把披萨盒丢入可回收垃圾箱。“如果里面只有一些面包屑，那不是问题，”她说。
Pizza boxes with “small amounts of grease” are O.K. to recycle in New York City, a sanitation department spokeswoman said. If the grease seeps through the cardboard, the box should be put in a composting bin or thrown out, she said.
Remember, there are also two sides to a pizza box. If there’s a side that’s not oily, tear that off and recycle it.
Yogurt cups (and other non-recyclable plastics)
After China banned used plastics this year, many municipalities in the United States no longer accept plastics numbered 3 to 7, which can include things like yogurt cups, butter tubs and vegetable oil bottles. Look at the bottom of a container for a number inside a triangle to see what type it is.
Without China, there is little market for these types of plastic, said Will Posegate, chief operations officer for Garten Services, which manages waste in parts of Oregon. “It’s expensive to get rid of it right now,” he said.
佳腾服务公司(Garten Services)首席运营官威尔·波斯盖特(Will Posegate)说，没有了中国，这类塑料几乎没什么市场。该公司负责俄勒冈州部分地区的废品处理。“现在再去处理掉是很贵的，”他说。
Should you keep the caps on your bottles? Some waste managers say it’s fine (as long as they are screwed on tight), while others advise throwing them in the trash.
Check your local recycling website to see which plastic types are still acceptable in your area.
Oily takeout containers
Even if a container is labeled correctly for recycling in your area, another contamination culprit is food residue: scraps of pad thai in a plastic tray, or those few drops of bad milk at the bottom of the jug.
Washing out food scraps from recyclables can be just as important as putting the right thing in the recycling bin, said Jackie Lang, a spokeswoman for Waste Management in Oregon. You don’t have to scrub containers until they are sparkling clean — that could waste water. But too many scraps of food and liquid can contaminate a load, which could then be sent to a landfill, Ms. Lang said. As much as possible, “keep food and liquids out,” she said.
俄勒冈州废物管理局(Waste Management)发言人杰姬·朗(Jackie Lang)表示，就和往回收箱内投入适合的物品一样，清洗掉可回收物品内的食物残留也同样重要。你不需要把容器擦洗得闪闪发亮——这会浪费水。但杰姬·朗说，过多的食物和液体残留会使一大批废品都收到污染，这会让它们被送往填埋场。尽可能“别混进食物和液体，”她说。
If you have a trash chute in your building, or a long walk down to the recycling bin, you might have gotten into the habit of collecting your paper, plastics and glass in used plastic bags, but it’s important to note that the bags themselves should not be put in the recycling cart.
While we might wish that plastic bags — notorious for dissolving into microplastics and killing wildlife — could be sent to processors with our other recycling, they shouldn’t be. They create a nightmare for waste managers by plugging up machinery. So remember to dump your recyclables out of the plastic bag when putting them in the recycling bin. Some areas do offer plastic bag drop-offs, which send these nonrigid plastics to special facilities for recycling. Other cities and states have moved to tax, limit or ban the use of plastic bags altogether.
Dirty diapers (yes, people do this)
O.K., we’re not accusing you of attempting to recycle used diapers. But people out there are trying. Waste managers around the United States say they turn up at their recycling facilities often.
In some cases, people might think that a diaper should be recyclable because it is mostly made of plastic, said Garry Penning, a spokesman for Rogue Disposal and Recycling, which operates throughout Oregon. But diapers are made of a number of materials, and usually more than one type of plastic. Of course, once they are used, they are also filled with human waste.
业务遍布俄勒冈州的罗格处理回收公司(Rogue Disposal and Recycling)的发言人加里·潘宁(Garry Penning)表示，有些时候，人们可能会认为尿布应该是可回收的，因为它主要由塑料制成。但构成尿布的材料有好几种，塑料通常也不止一种。当然了，一旦被使用，尿布也会沾满人类排泄物。
In other cases, Mr. Penning said, the recycling bin has simply become “the overflow for the garbage pail.” While there have been some attempts at diaper recycling, for the most part dirty one-use diapers are not considered recyclable and are best put straight in the trash.
“As a result of China’s waste import restrictions, we need to educate the public how to recycle properly,” said David Biderman, executive director of the Solid Waste Association of North America. “I think the public can make a significant difference,” he said.
“中国限制垃圾进口的结果就是，我们需要教育公众如何正确回收垃圾了，”北美固体废弃物协会(Solid Waste Association of North America)总干事戴维·比德曼(David Biderman)说。“我认为公众是可以发挥很大作用的，”他说。