What Really Happens When You Wishcycle?

wishcycle

Have you ever been in front of the recycling bin, debating whether or not to toss in an item you’re not entirely sure can be recycled?

To recycle or not is the question — and while one may think it’s better to toss an item in the recycling bin just in case it can somehow get recycled, “wishcycling” can actually cause more harm than good.

What is Wishcycling?

Wishcycling is the act of putting an item in the recycling bin in hopes that it can get recycled, regardless of whether that item is in fact recyclable or not. While it is true that we should recycle as much as possible, tossing items that don’t actually belong in the recycling bin carries harmful unintended consequences.

The items we throw in our recycling bin are sent to a facility and sorted by recycling workers and machines — but items that are not actually recyclable can jam up machinery and waste sorters’ time, making it so items that are actually recyclable are not all captured. Moreover, non-recyclable items can contaminate recyclable items and make it so that the recyclable items are too contaminated to actually be recycled.

When in Doubt, Check the Recycling Guide

But, no need to worry: there is a recycling guide to help you out anytime you’re unsure of whether an item is or isn’t recyclable. You can access it on your phone, tablet or computer – simply search for the item to discover how to properly dispose of it. Find more tips on using your recycling guide.

And the next time you are tempted to recycle something you’re unsure of, check the guide to see if it is really recyclable!

The Truth About Recycling Symbols

symbols

We see the recycling symbol with the three chasing arrows on something and think — Score! That must go in the recycling, right?

Not So Fast

Just because it has recycling symbols does not mean you can recycle it. The symbol can mean a variety of things from letting you know a product is made of recycled material to indicating it can be recycled somewhere in the world.

When determining what can and cannot be tossed in the recycling bin, unfortunately, we cannot rely on a symbol. We must keep in mind that a product’s recyclability is based on where we live, market forces and the capacity of our recycling center. 

What can be recycled in a large city, isn’t necessarily going to be the same as what can be recycled in a small town. While this makes it harder for us as consumers to know what is and isn’t recyclable, in the City of Stockton we can rely on our recycling guide to remind us what goes in the recycling and what stays out. To learn more about how to use your recycling guide, read more here

The Numbers in Recycling

OK, so not everything that has the recycling symbol can be recycled. Got it. 

But what about those numbers inside of the recycling symbol — what do those mean, anyway? 

Known as resin identification codes, those numbers range from 1-7 and help identify the type of plastic that makes up the product. For example, #1 means PET — a common type of plastic used for most beverage bottles. Each number corresponds to a different type of plastic and will tell you more about a product’s chemical properties and usage capabilities — but unfortunately, they will not tell you whether that product is accepted in your recycling bin. 

Instead of relying on the resin code, check out our page of recyclable items to see exactly what you can recycle.

National Learn About Compost Day – The Power of Compost

composting

What is Compost?

Compost is organic matter such as plant debris (e.g. leaves, twigs and yard waste) and food scraps (e.g. fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and even food-soiled paper products) that is transformed into rich, nutrient-filled soil that can be used to aid in the growth of new plants and crops.

How Does Composting Work?

You can think of composting as the controlled decomposition of organic matter. Decomposition is accomplished by combining organic waste with soil (which has microorganisms like bacteria and fungi), air and water. The microorganisms in the soil help break down the organic matter, and this process is accelerated by air as the compost pile is turned or aerated. 

The finished product is a soil amendment that can be used as a natural fertilizer, improving soil structure, and reducing soil erosion, leading to a healthier, more nutritious soil overall. It’s no wonder compost is also known as “black gold!”

Why Compost?

When organic matter is thrown in the trash bin, it gets sent to and buried in the landfill, where it lacks the oxygen necessary to properly decompose. This results in the emission of potent greenhouse gases and can also lead to the leaching of chemicals into our water sources. However, when we compost, not only do we contribute to a healthier air and water quality for all, but we also convert that organic waste into a valuable, nutrient-filled soil.

How Do I Compost?

You can join the compost movement by discarding your yard waste and food scraps in the green waste cart.

You can also learn how to create your own outdoor compost pile or indoor compost bin. There are a ton of resources online for even more information and inspiration, and what better day to start composting than on National Learn About Composting Day!

How To Use Our Recycling Guide

recycling guide

Knowing what to recycle can be tricky. Lucky for you, our detailed recycling guide is always at your fingertips. Here’s a brief guide on how to navigate its features, through your phone, tablet or computer.

Search or Browse

Once you’ve navigated to the recycling guide, you have two options for finding the item you’re looking to dispose of. One option is to use the search bar to enter in the name of the item you’re looking for – keep an eye out for suggestions as you type. The other option is to browse by What to Do (disposal method), use, or material by using the bubble menu right on the main recycling guide page. 

Guide Items

Once you find a specific item, below are more details on what you might find listed.

Under an item, you will find a “What to Do” heading that lets you know where the item should go. This could tell you to throw it away in the garbage, to recycle as e-waste, or dispose of properly as hazardous waste, to name a few examples.

Tips, like the one in the box above, offer more information about an item. For example, one tip about glass jars is that they need to be recycled empty.

Tips can also let you know of alternative ways to recycle items, ways to reduce, and ways to reuse. For example, using old food jars to store dry goods in your pantry. 

At the bottom of some guide items, you’ll find a “Did You Know”. “Did You Knows” offer a fun fact or tidbit that goes beyond information regarding disposal of an item. For example, did you know that that glass is infinitely recyclable? 

What To Do

If you want more details about disposal, click on the banner under the guide item name to be taken to the respective “What to Do” page. This page will have more info on the disposal method and include a complete list of all items that can be disposed of in the same manner. This can be very helpful for a What to Do such as hazardous waste where you could save a trip to the hazardous waste drop off location by taking multiple hazardous waste items. 

That’s our recycling guide! The next time you’re at the grocery store, or standing in front of your recycling bin, feel free to quickly reference an item and learn about its recyclability and more!

What Do I Do With Leftover Paint

ate paint

Got leftover paint from a home renovation or DIY project? Don’t worry, you’ve got some options for taking it off your hands.

The first thing to know is that house paint and primers — and all latex and oil-based paint — are considered hazardous waste. It must be disposed of properly and should never be dumped down the drain. Improperly disposing of paint can be toxic to the environment and pollute water sources, harm fish and wildlife and even impact human health.

Disposal Options

Here are a few disposal options for paint that will ensure it can be recycled and used again. 

Take it to a participating hardware store. Some hardware and home improvement stores have paint-collection programs where you can donate leftover paint to be remixed and resold. Find a location near you.

Dispose through our Hazardous Waste Program. Paint disposed of through our hazardous waste program is reused, recycled into new paint, or blended into fuel. 

You can read more guidelines on dropping off paint and find a drop-off site here. Call ahead to verify restrictions on how much paint can be dropped off. 

Do you have completely empty paint cans? See how to properly dispose of them.

Waste Less Paint

In the future, try to buy only the paint you need. Try this Buy Right guide that can help you estimate the exact amount you need for your project. This can help avoid excess paint that will require disposal.

You Can Prevent Battery Fires – Here’s How

battery fires

Never Throw Batteries in the Trash or Recycling

Although batteries are an amazing technology that allow us to use electricity in all sorts of portable devices, it’s important that they are disposed of properly. Batteries are hazardous waste and cannot be disposed of in any of your bins, as they can be harmful to waste workers, public health, and the environment. All batteries must be disposed of as hazardous waste, including AAA, AA, C, D, button cell, 9-volt, lithium-ion and any other single-use or rechargeable batteries, whether loose or contained inside of a device.

Why Not?

Batteries contain heavy metals and corrosive materials that can react and catch fire. When stored or disposed of improperly, batteries have the potential to catch fire in your home, in a garbage truck or at waste and recycling facilities. Battery fires are serious and have the potential to harm waste workers and destroy entire facilities.

Storage and Disposal

All these potential risks mean we must store and dispose of batteries and battery powered electronics safely.

In our homes, batteries should be kept in their original packaging or in separate plastic bags or containers to avoid contact with other metals. If you are bunching together loose batteries, be sure to keep the positive and negative sides of the batteries facing the same direction to avoid contact of opposing battery terminals. You can use either tape or a rubber band to bunch batteries together, then place them in a plastic bag.

To recycle batteries curbside, seal the batteries in a clear plastic bag and place them on top of your recycling cart. Batteries cannot be placed inside your recycling cart. Alternatively, batteries can be disposed of as hazardous waste.

Reduce and Reuse

You can keep our environmental impact low by reducing your demand for new batteries. Extend the life of your batteries by avoiding exposure to extreme temperatures and turning off battery-powered devices when not in use. When possible, substitute rechargeable batteries in place of single-use ones to reduce your impact and save money. Read more about the benefits of rechargeable batteries and find out where to use and avoid them.

Glass, Can It Always Be Recycled?

pile of glass bottles

Glass is a wonder material that can be repeatedly recycled. When glass is recycled, it is melted down and turned into new products. However, not all glass is created equal, and depending on its composition, must be disposed of accordingly.

Bottles and Jars Are Recyclable
The glass typically used for beverage bottles and jars, known as soda-lime glass, is the most common type of glass. Soda-lime glass is a cheap and easy glass to produce and recycle, making it well suited for transporting food and beverages.

Pyrex and Glassware Goes in the Trash
Other types of glass, such as borosilicate glass are better equipped at handling changes in temperature. For this reason, borosilicate glass – also known as Pyrex – is commonly used for bakeware. However, because of the difference in chemical composition when compared to soda-lime glass, these types of glass melt at a higher temperature and are unable to be recycled in your bin. </p

Moreover, certain types of glass, for example, wine and drinking glasses, contain additives and have a different composition that also renders them unable to be recycled with other types of glass.

Broken Glass Goes in the Trash
Broken glass can harm workers at recycling facilities and cannot be recycled. Small broken glass items should be wrapped in newspaper or in a plastic bag and disposed of in the trash.

When in Doubt, Consult Your Recycling Guide
Glass can seem like a tricky material to figure out, and when in doubt, please consult our recycling guide for more information.

Ask the Experts: How Do I Recycle Cardboard?

cardboard recycling
recycle questions

Have a tough recycling question?
We’re here to help! Ask the Experts »

Q: How do I recycle cardboard? Does it need to be broken down before being placed in the recycling? Can shiny and waxed cardboard be recycled?

A: Great questions. Yes, you should break down cardboard boxes before tossing them. Flattening the boxes makes it easier for sanitation workers and recycling facilities to handle, and they take up less space (and therefore reduce cost) as they travel to the recycling center. 

However, be mindful that not all cardboard can be recycled. Cardboard that has been stained by food residue, grease, liquids, chemicals, or oil cannot be recycled. This is because grease, chemicals and oil contaminate cardboard, and can also compromise your other clean recyclables. But, if you can cut off the soiled parts, you can still recycle the unsoiled cardboard pieces.

Waxed cardboard also cannot be recycled. This type of cardboard will leave you with a waxy residue if you were to scratch it with your fingernail. Waxed cardboard is a multi-layered cardboard coated with plastic. Although it helps to keep foods fresh and prevent sogginess, waxed cardboard is an inseparable mixed material which is not recyclable.

Unlike waxed cardboard, shiny or glossy cardboard can be recycled. A good example of glossy cardboard is a typical cardboard toothpaste box. If you are having trouble determining whether you are dealing with waxed cardboard, or glossy cardboard simply give it a scratch and see if any waxy residue comes off on your fingernail. 

Now that we have a better sense of what can be recycled, let’s cover breaking down boxes.

How to Break Down Cardboard Boxes

  1. Remove and separate any extra packaging materials such as plastic foam or bubble wrap
  2. Use a box cutter, knife or scissors to cut through any tape or along the edges to flatten the box as much as possible. You do not have to worry about removing tape, staples, or adhesives. 
  3. Cut or break down until cardboard is flat and can fit into your recycling, then toss it in!

PET and rPET: From Water Bottles to Boardshorts

plastic water bottle

Polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, is one of the most used and versatile materials. It is known as Plastic #1 and is found in everyday items such as soft drink and water bottles and plastic food containers.

What is PET?

PET is a strong, lightweight plastic that resists leaching chemicals into food or liquid stored within it. It is also part of the polyester family and can be used for fibers and fabrics. In addition, PET is a material that can easily be recycled and is consequently the most recycled plastic.

What is rPET?

When PET is collected, sorted, and recycled, it is ground up into flakes or made into pellets. This recycled polyethylene terephthalate, or rPET, is a plastic that can be used to make similar products as PET – but requires a lot less energy. PET requires more energy to create because it requires extracting oil, transporting it, refining it and turn it into pellets. rPET just requires recycled PET to be melted down and transformed into pellets. This makes it more costs effective and gives it a lower carbon footprint.

What Can Be Done With rPET?

rPET flakes and pellets are sold and used to make a wide range of products including more plastics and fabrics. Examples include packaging containers, carpets, clothing, blankets, backpacks, tote bags, car parts, insulation, and construction materials.

rPET is lightweight, quick drying and durable – making it a top contender for the manufacture of shoes, boardshorts and winter gear. Many companies now pride themselves on finding more sustainable ways of producing their products and are relying on this recycled plastic to meet their sustainability goals.

How Great is rPET?

Sure, it is great that we can confidently recycle Plastic #1 and create new products from it. But, at the end of the day, it is still plastic. Unlike glass and aluminum, PET is not infinitely recyclable, and most products made out of rPET can’t be recycled at all.

Even as PET becomes rPET and gets spun into yarn, transformed into fiber and woven into the fabric of our favorite jacket, it still releases microplastics into our water system every time it is washed. Microplastics end up in lakes or oceans and harm the animals that inhabit them. These plastics also find their way into our bodies through the food and water we consume.

The recycling process also requires energy and releases carbon emissions that contribute to environmental degradation. So, rather than solely relying on recycling, the best way for us to be conscious of our environmental impact is to avoid using single-use plastics, and then to properly recycle them whenever possible.