Aspiration Recycling describes people’s momentary feeling of optimism that the waste in their hand may be destined for a round trip if they put it in the recycling bin. In fact, very little we toss out these days can be recycled. Let’s discuss a few examples of the leading rejects.
The Top Five Items You Can’t Recycle:
Plastic Shopping Bags
Everyone can recall being told these bags could be turned into something
new. Some stores even have collection centers for them. Don’t bother. Not only are the bags
too complicated to process in the automated machines, there’s no market for the resulting
materials so recyclers don’t bother. Add to this list your dry cleaning covers, plastic mailers and
the plastic films across the tops of sandwich and salad containers.
Plastic Bottles (that Aren’t Clear or White)
Even if you have a bottle made from plastic #1 or #2, if it isn’t clear or white, it won’t be recycled. Dyes used to create the other colors can be hazardous to humans if consumed. While the chemicals used to color your shampoo bottle or laundry detergent don’t have to be safe, the ones in juice bottles or food wraps sure do. Once all the different products mash-up in the recycling stream, there’s no way to manage them. The only choice is to exclude the versions that pose a threat.
But it’s paper, right? Napkins, paper towels and tissue paper – even if they’re pristine,
have reached the end of their useful life. The fibers are cut so short to make them soft that they aren’t able to transform into anything else.
Paper Coffee Cups (and their Lids)
But it’s paper, right? About 99.9% of the paper coffee cups you’ve tossed out in your life have not been recycled. A thin plastic lining enables it to repel liquid but, simultaneously, makes it impossible to recycle. There are a few recyclable coffee cups on the market, which is why we’re allowing a 0.01% chance that it’s happened to you. Those plastic lids? Too small for most recyclers to bother with.
Starbucks Cold Cups and Sippy Lid
Once upon a time, Starbucks made its cold-drink cups from a high-quality plastic that could be recycled (not that they bothered in-store). When it introduced its sippy cup lid to replace straws, it opted to make it from cheaper plastic #5 and transitioned to a cup made from the same material. Plastic #5 is recyclable, but no one does it because there’s no market for the materials.
top image credit Flickr