Are you a wistful recycler? Have you ever wondered if a material was recyclable, and not knowing for sure, put it in the recycling bin anyway? Me too! Lesser of two evils, right?
Oops, your well-meaning gesture is creating a big contamination problem.
This year at Earth Day in Lincoln and Omaha, we offered a Recycling Challenge. A bag of about 13 materials was provided for the intrepid recycler to test their knowledge. Admittedly, there were some “trick” items, such as the Pepsi bottle containing a little bit of soda, and the pizza box with grease spots. Most people placed the majority of their materials in the correct bin; however, our little challenge confirmed what we already know: virtually all of us are confused about what can be recycled and/or how materials must be handled before recycling.
All this points to the need for standards up and down the value chain. Manufacturers need to keep the end in mind when they design packaging. We need standards for haulers and processors so users can receive consistent messaging on what and how to recycle. Product users need to check for recycling symbols, inform themselves about what is accepted by their recycler, and take an extra moment to rinse off food residue. Uniformity in signage and bin configuration is needed so that recycling can become second nature to all of us. There is no excuse for a stand-alone trash bin without a recycling companion by its side.
No more being wistful. Does your community or organization need assistance designing your recycling and outreach program? We can help. We use the latest information and research on recycling to inform our recommendations. For answers to your recycling questions, give us a call, or consult the Nebraska Recycling Guide on our web site, www.nrcne.org.
Now let me reiterate, let’s rededicate ourselves to reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle, and re-soil (compost) repeatedly!