Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Recycling FAQs

Answers for the Clueless to the Neurotic and everyone in-between.
Don't be a schmykel. Please recycle.

Can I recycle windowed envelopes?
Yep! All non-natural fibers and metals make their way out when the paper’s turned into pulp in the recycling process.

Can I recycle post-it notes?
Yessiree - as long as your recycler takes mixed-paper. Contrary to public opinion, most post-its are 99% paper, so not only do they recycle easily, they also don’t gum up the machines, a criticism often lobbed at them.

Should I recycle my pizza box?
Thanks, but no. "Food and grease-tainted paper is not desirable to have in pulping systems that recycle recovered paper."

Can you recycle plastic-coated paper cups?
No, unfortunately, there is no recyclable value. The same goes for wax-coated. While Styrofoam takes less energy to produce, it does not degrade, which is something paper has to its advantage.

The problem is using paper cups to begin with. Very few of them come from recycled paper, and Americans are projected to increase our consumption of them from 17 billion to 23 billion by 2010. If those #s don't scare you into bringing your own mug, read this.

Why can’t you recycle all plastics in Philly?
The official answer is that there isn’t enough demand to break down the plastic content in #s 3-7, because you can only garner a certain amount of reusable materials. However, according to some sources, a city will increase its plastic recycling count if it accept all numbers. Something worth bringing up at the next city council meeting. Philadelphia also has both single-stream (everything in one bucket) and dual-stream (separate your papers and cans, no plastics) recycling, but this summer will condense to single-stream. (Ahh, much better.) Learn more about Philadelphia's recycling program from this comprehensive City Paper Guide.

So if I can't recycle plastic #s 3-7 with the city, where can I recycle them?
Recycling Services, a mecca for plastics and other materials your city won't take. Located in Pottstown, PA, it's only a 45 minute drive from Philly. So save up all of your odds and ends (their list of accepted materials is exhaustive and specific, so please check it out) and make a trip once a year. It's worth it to see Jim Crater's amazing place and wandering peacock.

Meanwhile, make sure you separate your #1s and #2s for city recycling. Even a small amount of the wrong type of plastic can ruin a recycling melt. Because a lot of people don't take time to separate it, much plastic collected for recycling is actually landfilled when it could go to larger recycling centers like the one in Pottstown.

Can you recycle the caps on plastic bottles?
Yes, but not through most municipal recycling programs. They're made from a different type of plastic resin and can contaminate the other plastics. I did a search for "plastic bottle tops" and pulled up three straight pages of ways to turn them into fishing lures. Is anything NOT a craft project?! Luckily, Recycling Services will take them (see above).

Egads! There's plastic everywhere! What about baggies, cling wrap and bread bags??
Some of this falls into plastic type #2. Please refer to this chart at plasticbagrecycling.org to see the breakout and click on your location to see specifically what your city will take.

We're setting up our production office on location, and I'm not familiar with the recycling services there...
We'll be covering production waste in more detail soon, but if you're in a jam, try this handy 1-2-3 from the National Recycling Coalition.

I'm auditioning for America's Next Top Recycler, I'm burning to know more!
Here's a quick, helpful guide for when you're in doubt!

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