Restricting Recycling

Molly H.

This week’s Blog Post was written by Molly H., a Drummers Alumni! She discusses recycling restrictions, and why you may be doing more harm than good if you’re not aware of the rules in your area.

We all know recycling is important- it prevents waste materials from piling up in landfills or in the environment and conserves natural resources. But for many communities, there may be new restrictions on what you can put in the recycling bin. In fact, my community (along with many others around me) will be one of the first communities in the U.S. to implement the restrictions. And the reason for the new rules is a case of eco-mindedness gone wrong. Many people, myself included, are “wishful recyclers,” meaning when in doubt, we throw stuff in the recycling bin. If it’s wrong, it’ll get sorted out, right? Better than it going to the landfill. Well, this mindset has caused major problems.

Most recycled materials in the U.S. get sent to China to be processed. Unfortunately, the materials we send across the ocean are too contaminated to be processed, causing China to place a limit on the number of contaminated materials it will accept. The new limitations are much stricter than what the U.S. is used to, resulting in the new guidelines for communities. When materials are contaminated, it costs more time and money to sort through it, and some of it may never be recycled. As a result, recycled materials are piling up on the west coast because we have nowhere to send them. And the U.S. lacks many recycling facilities to process the pileup; most of it will go to the landfill.

While recycling may always seem the best choice, make sure you do it right!

So what can and cannot be recycled? While every community is different, one of the major changes in my community is we no longer accept glass. When glass breaks in the recycling, it sticks to paper and contaminates it, causing both materials to be thrown in the trash. In addition, only plastics 1 and 2 will be accepted. People have always regarded glass as an eco-friendly material because of its ability to be recycled, but now, it’s just another item in the garbage. And unfortunately, not many people in government are taking action to change the new rule; glass is cheaper to make from scratch than it is to make from recycled glass. So what can you do?

While the overall problem is political and can only be completely solved with legislation, there are some small steps you can take to help. First, recycle right! Be sure to check your community’s guidelines. This will prevent contamination and the subsequent pile-up of recycled materials because it isn’t accepted. For some communities, if the overall contamination is over the maximum percentage allowed, people will be fined. Secondly, find an outside company that will accept materials such as glass. If the community pick up will no longer pick it up curbside, find a company that uses the material to make its products and mail it to them.

Or, your community may have a semi-annual recycling drop-off event that accepts hard to recycle items. Thirdly, be conscious about the materials you bring into your home. Before you buy something, ask yourself if the packaging or container can be recycled. For example, buy soda in aluminum cans instead of a glass bottle. We can all take small steps to recycle right!

The image in this blog was sourced from the internet! You can view the original by clicking here.