How Paper Is Recycled


In the United States, we use 71 million tons of paper each year. That’s about as heavy as 195 Empire State Buildings. Ever wonder how it all gets recycled? Watch this video to find out.

Paper Egg Cartons Are Recyclable


Paper egg cartons are recyclable!

To recycle your egg cartons, make sure they are clean and dry. If you place eggs back in the carton after cracking them, the carton is no longer recyclable due to the food residue. Food residue will contaminate the recycling process.

Paper egg cartons are a more eco-friendly choice than either plastic or foam egg cartons. Why? Not only are they recyclable, they’re also made from paper that has already been recycled. They are biodegradable, too!

Learn more about paper egg cartons.

Top 10 Most Littered Items


This year’s World Clean-Up Day will be held on September 15. Each year for the clean-up, volunteers from around the world pick up litter in their communities. In conjunction with the U.S. National Clean-Up Day and the International Coastal Clean-Up, millions of people from 150 countries unite through small local actions against illegal waste.

From streets to forests to beaches, litter is everywhere. It’s also expensive — Keep America Beautiful has estimated that litter costs local communities and businesses in the U.S. at least $11.5 billion each year in clean-up and prevention.

To make matters worse, litter often leaches pollutants into the environment, and it harms wildlife, as well. Litter is often carried by wind or rain into rivers and storm drains, where it pollutes our waterways. Recent research from the Netherlands indicates that over 550 marine species have been affected by plastic litter, either by becoming tangled in it or eating it.

Since this year’s clean-up is right around the corner, let’s take a look at some of the most commonly littered items. Here are the top 10 items picked up by Ocean Conservancy volunteers last year:

1. Cigarette Butts
2. Food Wrappers (Candy Wrappers, Energy Bar Wrappers)
3. Plastic Bottles
4. Plastic Bottle Caps
5. Plastic Grocery Bags
6. Other Plastic Bags
7. Straws
8. Plastic Takeout Containers
9. Plastic Lids
10. Foam Takeout Containers

To join this year’s World Clean-Up Day events, find a clean-up group in Stockton.

Recycling Prevents Ocean Litter


Did you know that 80 percent of ocean litter comes from land-based sources? When you recycle and dispose of items correctly, you make sure they don’t pollute our waterways. Learn more by watching this video from The Recycling Partnership.

Online Shopping Is Up, Cardboard Recycling Is Down


According to a recent article in USA Today, online shopping sales have climbed steadily the past five years. The surge in shipping has led to an increase in cardboard consumption as well.

This past year, however, recycling rates for cardboard fell by 300,000 tons. Why are the recycling rates dropping? It turns out that residents may not be as good at recycling cardboard as retail stores.

One of the issues is that only about 60 percent of residents have curbside recycling services to begin with. The other 40 percent either don’t have access to curbside services or choose not to have them.

Those who do have curbside recycling don’t always take the time to break down their cardboard properly for recycling. Another problem is that cardboard can become contaminated by something such as a forgotten slice of pizza in a pizza box. Now that China is accepting non-contaminated recyclables only, a bale of contaminated cardboard may end up in the landfill instead of a recycling facility.

Overall, industry experts estimate that residents recycle only 25 percent of their cardboard. If more boxes aren’t recycled, more trees will need to be cut down to make new ones.

So what can you do? Try to limit how much packaging you end up with in the first place. Reducing your use of materials is the most powerful step you can take. Then, whenever you do buy something with packaging, take the time to recycle everything you can, and recycle right.

Read more from USA Today, or learn more about what to do with cardboard here.

What Should I Do With Scrap Metal?


Scrap metal is any kind of recyclable metal or metallic material leftover from manufacturing or consumer products, including copper, steel, aluminum, brass, nickel and iron. Even though these metals are recyclable, they often end up in the trash because they aren’t recycled through our curbside program.

It’s important to recycle scrap metal because the more we recycle and reuse, the more we reduce ore drilling around the world. Since metals are valuable, you can also make some money while you’re at it! So how can you recycle your scrap metal?

The best way to make sure your scrap gets recycled is to take it to a local scrapyard. Find a list of scrapyards in our Recycling Guide, or try using the iScrap App to search for scrapyard locations and prices.

If you want help identifying scrap metal, use this guide to common types of scrap from Capital Scrap Metal, or check out iScrap’s list of the top 25 types of scrap metal.

What Are Microplastics, Anyway?


Microplastics are a growing environmental concern — from the 2015 ban on microbeads to the more recent discussions on microfibers — but how many of us know what microplastics really are?

Microplastics are pieces of plastic that are less than five millimeters long. We’ve begun to pay closer attention to these small plastic bits only recently, but they actually aren’t all that new. One common form of microplastics, microbeads, first appeared in personal care products fifty years ago.

The reason these tiny plastics have become so popular recently is that they’ve been turning up in our water — in huge quantities.

Because of microplastics, scientists have begun calling our oceans “plastic soup.” A 2015 study estimated the number of plastic particles in our oceans ranged from 15 to 51 trillion pieces, weighing between 93,000 and 236,000 metric tons. But how do all the tiny plastics get there?

Large plastic debris that ends up in the ocean breaks down quickly in the water and sunlight. Because of this, over 90 percent of the plastic in our ocean is less than 10 millimeters long. The problem with small plastics is that — to our knowledge — they will never biodegrade. When they’re eaten by fish, they aren’t fully digested. Instead, they simply accumulate as smaller and smaller pieces that become more difficult to deal with.

About 700 different species consume microplastics, and what happens to animals that eat them isn’t fully known. So far, microplastics have been shown to decrease the overall health of marine worms, and they have also been shown to transfer pollutants to animals that consume them. Given what we know about the health hazards of plastics in general, it seems likely that other negative effects will surface as research continues.

Microplastics are also small enough to work their way into our tap water, because they slip easily through our water filters. According to a recent study, microplastics were found in over 94 percent of U.S. water samples. Microfibers — tiny strands of synthetic fabric — are another common source of microplastics. These work their way into the water supply each time we run our polyester and nylon clothing through a washing machine.

To combat the growing issue of microplastics, the U.S. passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act in 2015, banning plastic microbeads from cosmetics and other personal care products such as toothpaste and exfoliants. Researchers are currently hard at work to build better water filters for our water supply, and to find new ways to remove plastic trash from our oceans. The best thing for the rest of us to do is limit our use of plastic, especially single-use plastics and synthetic clothing.

Learn more about how to reduce plastic waste.

Put a Recycling Bin in Your Bathroom


Do you forget to recycle your bathroom products? Try putting a recycling bin in your bathroom.

For a lot of us, it’s an out-of-sight, out-of-mind kind of issue. A lot of bathroom products are recyclable, but it’s easy to forget about when the only recycling container lives in your kitchen or garage. A second recycling bin next your bathroom trash bin will remind you to recycle and make it easier.

Curious about what’s recyclable in your bathroom? Read this post on bathroom products to find out.

Why Do Fish Eat Plastic?


When you enjoy a bite of fish, you’re probably not thinking about what your food spent its life eating. Now, however, you may need to.

Researchers have found 100 species of fish that consume plastic trash in the ocean. Because the plastic does not fully biodegrade, it becomes absorbed into their body tissue and accumulates over time. Although plastic does not generally kill the fish that eat it, it does have other negative health effects, such as reduced liver functionality and reduced overall activity.

This becomes an issue for humans because when we eat a fish with plastic in its system, that plastic is likely to accumulate in our bodies, too.

Plastic in the ocean is a well-documented environmental problem. What we don’t understand as well is why fish are drawn to eat the plastic in the first place. One study shows that smell may be a key factor.

In the experiment, anchovies responded to the smell of plastic debris in their seawater just as they did to floating krill (their typical food) and actual plastic debris — with movements indicating they were searching for food. The anchovies perceive the smell of plastic debris as a potential food signal. This doesn’t tell us exactly why they are eating the plastic. However, it does tell us that the appearance and smell of plastic is confusing to them, so they are likely to continue eating it if it remains in their habitat.