A recent article in The New York Times, headlined “Six Things You’re Recycling Wrong,” highlights a problem that many of us didn’t know we had, or that vaguely vexed others.
“Sometimes, we want things to be recyclable, so we put them in the recycling bin,” states the article by environmental writer Livia Albeck-Ripka. “Waste managers often call this wishful or aspirational recycling.”
True, it’s not a problem on the scale of international terrorism, global warming or foreign interference in our elections. But it is something to consider when you are separating those items that will get another life through recycling from those destined to be buried in a landfill.
The six offenders that shouldn’t be tossed in general recycling bins include plastic grocery bags, greasy pizza boxes and single-use coffee cups lined with polyethylene. Along with yogurt cups made of non-recyclable plastics, oily takeout containers and dirty diapers (hard to believe, but some people do try to recycle them), these items cause headaches down the line for waste managers.
Plastic bags, for instance, “create a nightmare for waste managers by plugging up machinery” and should be returned to grocery store collection bins. Pizza bins stained with grease should be thrown away, or you can tear off the unstained top and recycle it. If your coffee or yogurt cup isn’t stamped with a recycling symbol, it should go in the trash. And used diapers should never go in the recycling.
That still leaves countless items in question. Residents can now get their questions answered about what can and can’t be recycled on Recyclopedia, a new database at www.hcrecycles.org.
The tool helps residents understand what can and can’t be recycled to “cut down on contamination in the curbside and convenience center recycling streams,” says Rachel Kipar, the county’s environmental programs coordinator.
Henderson County Solid Waste and Environmental Programs launched the online recycling and waste disposal database to help answer the question, “Can I recycle it or not?“ You can type in the name of any item, or call up an alphabetical list and select the thing that has you scratching your head.
For instance, aerosol cans can be recycled at the convenience center, but only if they are completely empty. Cans that are full or partially full are considered household hazardous waste.
The county holds special collection events each spring and fall for people to safely dispose of household hazardous waste. The simplest solution, however, may be to use up everything in the can so it can be recycled.
What about those bulky old television sets that nobody seems to want? Unfortunately, they are not among electronic devices accepted at the convenience center. You will either have find a place for it in your garage or workshop, talk someone into taking it, or pay $15 to get rid of it at the transfer station.
For answers on just about everything else, from air conditioners to yard and garden trimmings, check out www.hcrecycles.org, or call 828-697-4505.