Clearing the Air on Recycling Myths: Separating Fact from Fiction

Recycling myths are as old as the industry itself. It’s a familiar concept — separating food, plastics, and paper, from general waste and culminating in a weekly visit by the Greyhound Recycling truck. We do this good deed, secure in the knowledge we’re playing our part in helping to make our waste less wasteful.

But is recycling actually as effective as we think it is? To clear the air, we must confront some common recycling myths that continue to float in our collective unconscious.

Recycling Myths 1: A Little Contamination Won’t Hurt

Contamination is the enemy of recycling. When non-recyclable items such as batteries, electronics, greasy pizza boxes or the leftover spaghetti sauce on the empty jar disturb the sanctity of the recycling bin, they contaminate the entire load. In a recent study, contamination rates above 20% were found in some communities, leading to entire loads of recycling being sent to incineration.

Tackling the Truth

A little education goes a long way in combating contamination. We must learn the rules of recycling – and stick to them. A quick rinse of those jars means no trace of sauce, and a “shake and scrape” of the pizza box, minus the oily bottom, is all it takes.

Recycling Myths 2: All Plastics Can be Recycled

Have you ever stood in the aisle of a supermarket, squinting at the recycling symbol on a plastic item, and wondered: “Is this recyclable?” Just because it has the chasing arrows symbol doesn’t mean it’s accepted in your recycling program. The magic number inside the symbol indicates the type of plastic and its level of recyclability.

The Real Deal

Not all plastics are created equal, and neither are they all recycled equally. The more complex the plastic, the less likely it is to be recycled. Keep it simple – plastics #1, #2, and sometimes #5 are most easily recycled. If you check the packaging it’ll tell you which one is which.

Recycling myths 3: Recycling is the Best Option

Recycling is an excellent alternative to incineration, but it’s not a perfect solution. The act of recycling itself consumes energy and water, and certain materials may actually have a lower environmental impact if they’re just disposed of properly. Reducing and reusing are better options for our planet. Do you really need to buy it? Can you buy it used instead?

The Verdict

Reduce, reuse, and recycle – in that order. Our primary focus should be on reducing our consumption of single-use materials and reusing what we have before recycling. It’s a hierarchy that helps us maximise the environmental benefits of consumption.

The Reality

The recycling process is complex, and not everything can be recycled. It’s important to understand what can and cannot be accepted in your area.

Small Steps To Big Change

Don’t underestimate the power of your choices. Start small – a properly rinsed jar here, an upcycled t-shirt there – the ripple effects of consistent sustainable actions can inspire those around you.

In summary, debunking these recycling myths not only highlights the flaws in our assumptions but also underlines the significance of being a smart, informed recycler. Opting for clarity over convenience is the first step towards a genuinely green future.