The Better Bin: When it comes to recycling, do you know what you’re doing?

In the world of recycling, not all plastic is created equal – and not all things are recyclable.

And whether by intention or not, Canadians are attempting to recycle incorrect things – or are just recycling incorrectly – and it’s putting big pressure on those trying to sort and sell those materials.

In a single-stream recycling system as it exists in North Glengarry and some neighbouring communities, about 13% of recycling bin contents should actually be in the garbage.

With China no longer importing any further recyclables, even more consumer material is headed to the landfill. Prior to that decision earlier this year, China purchased nearly two-thirds of North America’s recyclables, including lower grade paper and plastics.

The good news is that there is still a market to process and sell recycling products domestically in Canada. The difference is that the quality of goods must be much higher.

Adding to the complexity is that our recycling habits just aren’t as good as they could (or should) be.

The Review recently caught up with Linda Andrushkoff, Manager of the RARE program in Alexandria, to get a quick lesson in common mistakes that people make and good practices to help us all be better recyclers.

“The general rule is if you don’t eat it or put it on your body, don’t recycle it,” said Andrushkoff.

She and the team of workers at RARE have seen pretty much everything be tossed in a recycling bin – from old tires, rugs and children’s toys to pipes, oil containers and household furnishings.

Another common issue is leaving liquid or food in containers. Leftover pop, juice, hummus or peanut butter are often to blame for a container having to be removed from the sorting line.

Also interesting to note is that some things we assume are recyclable, actually are not. For convenience, there is now more individual packaging – think yogurt and juice containers. Those actually are not recyclable at RARE because these items are made from lower grade plastic. The better environmental choice? Buy the bigger yogurt container and use refillable, reusable dishware for lunches; the same with juice and snacks.

Chip and snack bags, Styrofoam and other packing materials and waxed cardboard are also not recyclable.

Plastics are always graded between 1 and 7, with 1 being the highest grade. So look at the bottom of your item to help determine if it is recyclable. Most processors, like RARE, will accept plastic of grades 1,2,4 or 5.

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  • Empty remaining liquids from all beverage and food containers.
  • Empty aluminum cans, pie plates and trays are recyclable.
  • Flatten and bundle cardboard.
  • Place shredded paper in a clear bag.
  • Household items like rolling pins, old toys and CDs are not recyclable.
  • Chip and snack bags are not recyclable.
  • Oil containers are not recyclable.