Recycling and composting are the two best ways to reduce the EPA’s estimated 4.5 lbs. of garbage each American sends to the landfill each day. In fact, over half the stuff the average person throws in the trash can actually be recycled or composted.
Below are a few of the most common items people think are recyclable and/or compostable but actually belong at a landfill.
This is a tough one since current recycling technology offers the capability to recycle plastic grocery bags, but very few facilities utilize this technology at the moment.
A California-based company called MBA Polymers specializes in handling hard-to-recycle plastics like plastic bags. It uses a 30-step process to sort the various plastics and recycle it into small pellets. These small pellets are then used to make things like electronics and car parts.
Current recommendations for plastic bag recycling are contradicting. A 2010 article published at MNN.com specifically states to avoid composting or recycling plastic grocery bags and Earth911.com states that plastic grocery bags are ok to recycle.
So, the best approach is to contact your local recycle center or hauler and ask if they accept plastic bags for recycling. If not, toss them in the trash can. Plastic should never end up in your compost bin.
Cardboard is great for recycling but not when it’s all greasy. Why? The paper and cardboard recycling process involves adding water to create a slurry mixture. Since grease and water don’t mix, the grease sits on top of the slurry and doesn’t allow the paper fibers to separate from the grease.
So, the best approach here is to avoid putting any type of greasy or oily paper/cardboard item into the recycle bin. Grease or oil on glass, metal or plastic is a different story. These items are melted during the recycling process, which rids the material of grease and oil.
Used Napkins/Paper Towels
Like pizza boxes, used napkins and paper towel should go in the trash, not the recycle bin. Paper products with grease, butter, oils or cleaning chemicals can disrupt the recycling process for reasons mentioned above.
Used napkins and paper towels may be good for composting, however. Just make sure the used paper towel or napkin wasn’t used for cleaning (unless you use homemade cleaning solution like vinegar) and isn’t saturated with grease, fat, butter or oil.
Keep eggs out of the compost pile to avoid attracting pests and to keep the compost from smelling bad. The same holds true for any type of animal product, such as meat, fish, bones, milk, cheese and fats.
However, egg shells themselves are great for compost. Egg shells contain a high level of calcium, which is an excellent nutrient for growing healthy plants and vegetables. The key is to wash the egg shells before adding to the compost pile. This helps get rid of any residual egg white/yolk.
Ashes are good for compost piles, but not all ashes are created equal. The good ashes are from wood burning fires while the bad are from charcoal fires. No type of coal should find its way into your compost bin.
Charcoal and coal in general, contain substances that are toxic to the microorganisms in the soil. These microorganisms are the key to breaking down the composting materials to form nutritious humus ideal for growing grass, flowers and other plants.
Magazines fall into a category referred to as “mixed paper” along with things like cereal boxes, phone books and greeting cards. Mixed paper means exactly that; the paper product uses multiple types of paper and fiber lengths.
Magazine composting is sort of a quandary. Some types of magazines are actually beneficial when shredded and added to compost piles, according to a report published by the EPA. The “good” magazines include those that use eco-friendly inks (it may specify this in the front or back cover of the publication), or those that do not contain any of the specialty, high-gloss inks.
If you’re unsure about which magazines are good for composting and which are bad, it’s best to simply trash it. It’s not worth risking your entire compost harvest.
Joe Eitel is a web content writer for Hometown Dumpster Rental, the leading online resource for finding local dumpster rental and junk removal service providers nationwide. Check out the Hometown Dumpster Rental Blog for industry news and eco-friendly tips.
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