Marin Sanitary Service’s “Top 10 Recycling Mistakes”
You can help keep our recycling streams clean and organized when you avoid making these recycling errors.
Are you confused about whether an item is recyclable or not? Are you following MSS’s most recent recycling guidelines? Below we detail some common issues we’ve found in our recycling streams.
1. Stop putting ‘garbage’ plastics in the recyclables cart.
We don’t accept as many plastics as you may have thought in our container recycling stream. Currently, we only accept plastic bottles, jugs, and tubs. All other plastics, including plastic bags and plastic clamshell containers, belong in the trash. Plastic bags can clog and break our machinery, which can cost us thousands of dollars to repair.
2. Just because an item has a recycling symbol doesn’t mean it is recyclable.
The recycling symbol doesn’t have any meaning to the consumer. It helps us, the processor, understand what kind of plastic the material is made of. It does not mean that the material can be recycled, and it is best to use the resources on our website to determine whether a plastic item is recyclable.
3. No bagging of recyclable containers (bottles, cans, etc.).
Not even in a paper bag. All items need to be loose in the curbside container.
All recyclable containers need to be loose so that the sorters at our facility can easily sort the containers by type. If materials are bagged, they can slip through our system and end up getting tossed in the garbage. As previously mentioned, the plastic bags can ruin our machinery too.
If you want to bag your containers before you toss them out, simply pour them into your recycling cart from the bag and toss the bag into the garbage (if plastic) or paper recycling (if paper).
4. Pizza boxes go in the organics (green) cart.
Contrary to what many think, we cannot accept pizza boxes in the paper recycling cart. This is because the grease from the pizza contaminates not just the cardboard, but potentially more of the paper and cardboard it touches in the cart or at the recycling center. It also can contaminate the paper in the recycling process itself, preventing clean paper from getting properly recycled. Pizza boxes, however, can be composted and should be placed in the green cart.
5. We cannot accept dirty containers in the recycling cart.
They must be free of food and wiped or rinsed clean.
Any containers with large amounts of food or liquid residue found on them can contaminate the rest of the items in that stream. For this reason, we ask that you rinse or wipe your containers clean of excess residue.
For instance, a peanut butter container cannot have small amounts of residue. It becomes a problem if there is leftover residue and makes the plastic less valuable or not recyclable in some cases.
6. Hangers, wires and cords are not recyclable.
They belong in the garbage.
While these items may seem like they are recyclable, our systems are not designed to recover these items. Hangers, wires, and cords can jam and break the conveyor system, so it is best to put them in your trash cart.
7. Clothing is not recyclable in your curbside cart.Please donate clothing, or if damaged, place them in the garbage if you cannot repair or reuse it. Goodwill takes damaged clothing and textiles for the insulation or rag market. This is the best way to ensure your old clothing gets used more than once.
8. Non-recyclable paper must go in the garbage.
Only clean, plain paper items can go into the paper recycling. Plastic-lined items cannot and must be thrown in the trash. Examples of these items include:
- Coffee cups, soft drink cups
- Milk Cartons
- Plastic-lined plates
Magazines and other paper-items with a glossy coating can be recycled, as this is usually the result of the ink on the paper, not a plastic coating. If you’re unsure whether an item is “glossy” or lined with plastic, an easy way to test for this is to tear the item; if it tears it’s likely caused from ink rather than a plastic-lining (which will be much tougher to tear).