The rules of recycling
How to sort and recycle your waste correctly?
Everyone sorts their waste to participate in recycling, or almost everyone. According to waste management experts, 83% of Americans say they sort. Only, less than half sort systematically, and most also make sorting errors. So o two third of household waste is recycled!
The problem is that the rules for recycling are not always clear and not always well enforced. To help you, here are some simple rules to follow for proper sorting. So here are the basics: to sort your waste, there are generally 3 bins: the recyclable bin, the ordinary waste bin, and the glass bin. As a general rule, we say that the bin for glasses receives all glass-based waste, the recyclable bin accommodates plastics, paper, cardboard and metal, while the classic bin is made for everything else. that cannot be recycled (especially food waste)
Let's start with recyclables. First, there is a list of wastes that are systematically (or almost) recycled:
- Cartons (pasta boxes, cake boxes, pizza boxes and others) provided they are not too dirty or too wet
- Papers (newspapers, magazines, flyers) are almost always recycled. The only exceptions are photo papers and wallpaper, which are laminated and benefit from specific treatments that make recycling impossible.
- Steel and aluminum (cans, aluminum trays, cans, aerosols), but not aluminum foil which is too thin to be recycled. Likewise, coffee capsules are not recycled.
- Food cartons (soups, milk, creams and more) which are usually made from a mixture of cardboard, aluminum and polyethylene.
All these materials are systematically recycled in the USA. You can therefore always put them in your “recyclable” trash, except for the exceptions mentioned above.
How to recycle: plastic is not automatic
Be aware that a lot of things that we think are "recyclable" are not actually recyclable. In reality, only a small part of our waste is recyclable, including among the materials that are often perceived as such. Why ? Quite simply because to be recycled, a material must meet certain criteria: be sufficiently thick, have a particular composition and a specific melting temperature, for example.
Plastics are a good example. It is often thought that plastics are all recyclable when in fact, this is far from the case. There are dozens of kinds of plastics: flexible, rigid, opaque or transparent, thin or thick… And contrary to popular belief, most are not recycled. In fact, as a rule, only the plastics used in the manufacture of bottles and other flasks are recycled. This means that your bottle of water, milk or oil as well as your shampoo bottles or your cosmetic bottles are recyclable, but that plastic cups, plastic dishes or plastic food trays are not.
How to recycle glass: beware of misconceptions
Regarding glass, again things are not so simple. Of course, glass bottles such as wine, beer, milk or fruit juice bottles are recycled via the “glasses” bin. But many glasses cannot be recycled: this is the case with glass dishes (glasses, plates or other), Pyrex dishes which have a different melting temperature from glass, light bulbs or even crystal, mirrors and other car windows ...
And the rest? How to sort and recycle it?
therwise, it's pretty simple: most household waste is thrown away with your regular household waste.
Most plastic or polystyrene food packaging, plastic films, aluminum foil, broken table glasses or even too dirty or too wet cardboard boxes are non-recycled waste and must therefore be thrown in your general bin. Unless of course if your municipality participates in the development of the sector, in particular for new plastics. This is also the case for food waste for which there is currently no specific generalized channel. However, it is possible to sort them to make compost (very useful if you have a garden).
What cannot be thrown in the trash
Be careful, however: a lot of waste cannot be thrown in a conventional trash can: this is the case of cells, batteries, electronic equipment and other hazardous waste or containing materials harmful to the environment or to health. For some of this waste, there are specific channels. This is particularly the case for:
- cells, batteries or bulbs which are recycled via special channels (via terminals available in supermarkets in particular)
- the drugs to bring back to the drugstore
- aluminum capsules for coffee can sometimes be brought back to the producer who takes care of them (it depends on your supplier). In some municipalities, it is now possible to drop them off in your recycling bin.
- waste electrical and electronic equipment, for which there are dedicated channels. You can bring them back to a distributor who has the obligation to recover your old device in exchange for the purchase of a new one, or donate it to an association which will take care of a possible re-employment
either drop it off at a recycling center or at special collection point.
- edible oils, which can be thrown in your ordinary trash but it is better, if possible, to drop off at specialized collection points (check with your municipality). Do not throw in its pipes: this can clog the pipes and complicates the treatment of wastewater.
- engine oils and other used oil, which must be disposed of at specific collection points, at a garage or in dedicated collection bins.
tires that must be returned to a specialist or distributor
- large waste of scrap metal, wood or materials that must be taken to a recycling center