Thanks to the pleasant weather, spring cleaning is in full swing. But as countless homeowners begin to purge their homes of unwanted goods, many will forget to recycle important products. That, or they will make numerous accidents while recycling despite their valiant efforts.
A recent study performed by the Grocery Manufacturers Association has found that most people are confused regarding their local recycling laws. This confusion has led to contamination within the recycling industry, both in regard to unclean products and improper items making their way into the recycling process. In fact, more than 25% of all recycling in the United States is contaminated. This is up from 7% only one decade ago.
If you’re one of the plentiful people performing spring cleaning this year, watch out for these common recycling misconceptions.
You can’t recycle styrofoam
There’s a common misconception that this product is not recyclable. This idea has permeated the mind of so many consumers that there’s even a bill currently being assessed by the Senate regarding the ban the use of takeout styrofoam in Colorado. Should it be passed, it would go into effect in 2024.
This is because the styrofoam used to craft to-go boxes are notoriously hard to recycle despite their ability to be reused. This is primarily because so many people are failing to clean the styrofoam of food waste before recycling. A recent report claims that polystyrene containers, also known as styrofoam, are among the top 10 most commonly littered items across the United States.
Colorado recognizes that there are viable take-out alternatives to reduce litter as a whole. By phasing out styrofoam, lawmakers hope that waste will be diverted from landfills.
And Colorado isn’t the first state to propose this ban. In fact, a similar bill was just passed in Maine, officially banning styrofoam containers from the area. This is a pivotal change for the estimated 256 million pieces of styrofoam used each year throughout the state.
Plastic bottles don’t matter
You need to check with your state and local laws, but almost every type of plastic bottle is recyclable. This includes polythene plastic bottles, most commonly seen in the form of single-use water bottles.
Polythene plastic production contributes to more than 80 million tons of plastic used each year across the globe. Recycling these products will help keep them out of the ecosystem and out of reach for the countless animals who might get their hands on them. Always recycle these essential pieces of plastic for reuse. You can even take them to your local grocery store for a bottle refund.
Paint can go down the drain
Did you know a can of paint can last between three and five years as long as it’s properly stored? If you found an old can of paint while spring cleaning, you can’t just throw it in the trash or pour it down the drain. After all, paint is the last thing you want muddling up your sewer system. Not only are the chemicals in paint terrible for the local environment, but paints can clog, block, and corrode the sewer lines in your home, resulting in costly repairs.
If you live under a homeowners association, the repercussions can be even worse. This act often directly violates the rules and regulations of your residence and could harm the livelihood of others in your area. It’s because of rules like these that Americans residing under homeowners associations have been overwhelmingly satisfied with their community for the seventh time in the last 13 years.
Any paints, varnishes, stains, and coatings are banned from being poured down drains or put in the trash for these chemical reasons. Luckily, most residential paint products can be recycled for no charge and large businesses will only have to pay a $5.00 service fee in some areas.
You can toss electronics
If you happened across old computer parts from 1995 in the back of your closet, you’re not alone. An estimated 50 million tons of electronic waste is produced throughout the globe every year and this number is only expected to increase. Instead of throwing that keyboard or phone in the trash, however, you need to practice healthy recycling habits and prevent these items from making their way into your local landfill.
You might not think of it, but these electronic components contain toxic chemicals, like mercury and lead, which can contaminate our ecosystems.
Luckily, many electronic stores will happily take your devices off your hands. They may even offer you cash or a discount on a new purchase in some cases. Regardless, any option is better when it means harmful pollutants are staying out of the environment.
When you want to start recycling more, be sure to check with your local and state laws. While more than 74% of survey respondents wish that the United States had a uniform system of recycling, this lofty dream is too big to reach for now. If you’re concerned about your recycling procedure at home or in the office, refer to your local legislature for more information.
And if you’re looking for more ways to go green and protect the environment follow the advice of Genevieve, owner of Eco Collective:
“Follow your inspiration and change one thing at a time; if you run out of shampoo, try a shampoo bar, and if you use up all your plastic ziplocs, invest in reusable silicone bags to keep your food fresh. Sustainable living doesn’t happen overnight!”