What Really Happens When Your Recyclables are Picked Up

Have you ever wondered what actually happens when you recycle? How does all the recycling we put into one bin get sorted and revitalized into new things? I was delighted when I found this infographic from Oberk.com on what really happens when your recyclables are picked up curbside in a single-stream recycling process (where all recyclables are placed in the same bin). It explores what happens to paper, steel, glass, aluminum, and the big baddie – plastic! Check it out:

Seeing this got me thinking, “does it matter if my recycles aren’t completely clean?” Is it worth the water it takes to completely cleanse them? I did some investigating to discover the answer, which is the answer to many things in life: it depends. Overall, it is important for recycles to be empty, clean, and dry. This is important because in mixed recycling, food or water can contaminate and ruin other materials such as paper and cardboard, dooming them to the landfill. Scraping out any food waste and giving it a quick rinse is usually sufficient. The extent of how clean it needs to be depends on where you live, so it may be worth it to make some local inquiries to determine the ideal state for your recycles to be in when they hit the bin. Another factor to consider is that grease and oil can make paper and cardboard ineligible for recycling, but some municipalities do accept them. Overall, it pays to do some research into how to properly recycle in your area!

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