You know recycling is important – it is a vital step in ensuring your waste is transformed into something new. You put recyclables into your bin and take them to the curb each week, feeling good about your effort in making the planet a little greener. But did you know that the integrity of your recyclables can be jeopardized if you don’t recycle right?
Don’t worry – recycling is worth it and diverts valuable materials from landfills. Spending some time learning how to recycle right and making a conscious effort will help reduce our reliance on landfills, conserve limited natural resources, and reduce pollution.
The most difficult step happens to be the most crucial, which is determining whether an item is recyclable. Many of us fall into the habit of ‘wishcycling’ - the belief that everything we toss into the recycling bin will be recycled. This wishful thinking can be problematic – it can contaminate valuable resources and cause operational issues to the extent of shutting down a recycling center for maintenance or an emergency.
Just because an item is made of plastic or paper does not mean it can be recycled. Also, hazardous waste, such as batteries, paints, pressurized containers and electronic waste, is dangerous if put in your recycling bin; these materials can leak or start fires, putting both a recycling facility and its employees at risk. These hazardous materials should be taken to a drop-off depot to be disposed of properly.
To recycle right, visit the Home Solutions page of emterra.ca or emterrausa.com to access your region’s list of acceptable items; print this and keep it on hand as a guide to recycling right. If you’re still unsure, contact your region’s waste management department to get the inside scoop.
Always make sure items are empty and clean. Once food-soiled items like pizza boxes, peanut butter jars, and takeout containers enter the recycling stream, they can contaminate tons of other materials that could have been transformed into something new.
Wipe away any food or grease residue as best as you can, otherwise toss in the trash. Remember, don’t be a wishcycler.
Once you have determined if an item is recyclable and it's empty and clean, you may need to separate materials – this is called “single-stream” or “dual-steam” recycling. Recycling streams vary between regions and depend on the infrastructure of your local Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). Double-check your collection calendar to be certain which stream your region runs on.
If your local recycling rules call for materials to be sorted, remove sleeves from coffee cups, for example, so all materials are more likely to be recycled right.
If Emterra Environmental services your region, you can check your collection schedule by visiting our Home Solutions page.
P.S. If you see your waste collector throwing it all in the back of the same truck after all that effort, don’t panic. If your region provides dual-stream recycling, the collection trucks in your area may also be equipped to keep these materials separated with two compartments in its rear loader.
After your items are separated and sorted into their appropriate bins, it’s time for them to head to the curb. While collections will vary, it’s best practice to place your bins at the curb between 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. Leaving paper products overnight at the curb could deem them unrecyclable by morning if it rains or snows, making them wet, soggy and contaminating other paper products that still had a chance.
If your recycling is not in a clearly marked bin visible at the curb, there is a chance it will not be collected. If you have large, bulky items or a lot of additional waste to dispose of, we have various options to suit your needs on our online store. If your recycling is not picked up due to service delays or undrivable weather conditions, leave your bins at the curb and contact your local municipality if they have not been picked up within 48 hours.
If your region uses carts instead of bins, place your cart with its back wheels toward the curb or edge of the road; the cart lid should open towards the centre of the road. Leave one arm’s length clearance (one meter or 39 inches) on all sides of the cart, so there is space for the loader or collection truck to grab it.
If you’ve been away from home and don’t have much material to put at the curb, you can hold onto it for the following week to decrease the number of truck stops – fewer stops, more efficiency in time and fuel.
In winter, clear snow away from the surrounding area where you place your cart at the curb. Do not place carts behind or on top of snowbanks. Clear snow and ice off lids so they will easily open when emptied.
If you have further questions, visit your regional website for updates or call your municipality for further inquiries.
It’s inevitable for certain items and materials to go to the landfill, such as textiles, plastic items not labelled #1-7, personal hygiene products, etc.; however, recycling starts with the choices we make in our daily lives. Choosing to buy foods in bulk or items with less packaging will ultimately decrease your waste output and carbon footprint. Making eco-conscious decisions to reuse, repair, refurbish, repurpose before you recycle can help you become the ultimate circular economy connoisseur.