Are you recycling wrong? The items ruining your bin

Published: Jun. 11, 2019 at 6:23 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Recycling experts are more concerned about whether you are recycling right than if you’re recycling at all.

One misplaced item can ruin a whole bin according to Larry Cook, Recycling and Waste Manager at USC.

“Contaminants lower the value of the material that can be recycled and increase program costs. DHEC advises everyone to check with their local recycling program to see what materials are accepted. And if you are not sure, when in doubt then throw it out is a good rule to follow,” says the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Cook says a couple of years ago he had to throw five tons of cardboard into the landfill because one container of raw chicken spoiled the bins.

In addition to food items, Cook warns people to avoid recycling items anything with more than one material. For example, cups with plastic coatings. He says a good rule of thumb is to try and tear the material, and if it doesn’t rip easily it most likely isn’t recyclable.

DHEC calls the worst contaminants the “dirty dozen.” The list includes plastic bags because they jam machines at sorting facilities, shredded paper, scrap metal, and flattened bottles and cans.

Cook says if people know what they can’t and recycle, it can save a lot of time at sorting facilities.

“If you take the time on the front end to learn what’s really acceptable then you save some time on materials that will end up in the landfill anyway,” he says.

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