Earth Week Continued: Recycle Right

Last week was Earth Week, which led up to Earth Day this past Sunday. My office shared a ton of recycling, composting, and other waste reduction tips with staff. I had the honor of putting together recycling information, which I’d like to share with you below.

Image from: City of Canton

The nonprofit Recycle Across America works to increase recycling rates by decreasing consumer confusion. They’ve put together the following facts.

“For the economy:

o    Recycling is a $200 billion industry in the U.S.

o    Recycling generates 7-10 more jobs than landfills and waste to energy plants.

o    Recycling properly creates valuable resources for U.S. manufacturing and can become a highly valuable export to countries such as China and India.”

“For the environment:

o    Recycling conserves finite natural resources – this is critical as ​population continues to grow exponentially.

o    Recycling conserves fresh water up to 95% in the mining and manufacturing process for many materials.

o    Recycling prevents waste from going into oceans – it is proven, when there is a strong recycling culture, there is less litter and less waste going into ocean

o    ​​Protects forests which help to reduce CO2 emissions

o    Significantly reduces use of fossil fuel energy and reduces CO2 emissions”

Tips to recycle right! (From Recycle Across America)

  1. WHEN IN DOUBT THROW IT OUT.   As much as we might want everything to be recyclable, many things are not.  In fact, making too many mistakes can cause even the good materials to go to the landfills.  So instead of wish-cycling, make sure every common recyclable such as, metal cans, plastic bottles, plastic jugs, clean cardboard and clean paper gets recycled.  And if you’re not sure about something, let it go to the landfill to avoid contamination.
  2. Most recycling haulers CANNOT ACCEPT PLASTIC BAGS in the recycling bin. Please VERIFY WITH YOUR RECYCLING HAULER IF YOUR RECYCLABLES CAN BE PUT INSIDE PLASTIC BAGS.  If you’re not sure, do not put any plastic bags in the recycling bins at all.  Empty all of your recyclables directly into the recycling bin or recycling dumpster – without using a plastic bag.
  3. Unless the recycling hauler has indicated specifically that they can accept these items, as a rule of thumb: NO aluminum foil, NO plastic or metal utensils, NO plastic bags, NO Styrofoam, and NO plastic wraps or wrappers in the recycling bin.
  4. NO pizza boxes.  The oil, cheese, and sauce on the box can contaminate the cardboard.  Put it in the trash and send it to the landfill.
  5. Empty and scrape out the food or materials from bottles, jars, cans and bottles before putting it in the recycling bin. And please remove all metal lids from glass jars.”

Recycle Across America has put together a Recycling Toolkit for anyone who wants to learn more.

If you’re in Santa Cruz, the city has a simple one pager for local recycling rules, as well as the Santa Cruz County Residential Recycle Guide.

I encourage you to look for recycling guides in your area to ensure you’re adding all you can to recycling bins, but not adding items that cannot be recycled.

Image from:

2 thoughts on “Earth Week Continued: Recycle Right

  1. I have always wondered if there is monitoring of the recycling ecosystem. For instance, when we export plastics to China (as an example) do we know for a fact that the vast majority of the materials are in fact being responsibly recycled vs being place in a landfill in some remote Chinese village or worst yet dumped in the ocean. Any insights in this regard? Thanks for the great post.


  2. Thanks for reading! Unfortunately I don’t have much knowledge on recycling if product leaves the US. I’m more familiar with local recycling centers and efforts. Hopefully we can keep as much recycled product in the US for reuse in something new!


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