5 Things You’ll Find in a Recycling Bin That Aren’t Recyclable

| By Brianna Pennella

We believe in doing our best every day. And that means trying to be as accurate as possible when we fill up our recycling bins. Everyone knows about sorting by material, cleaning off packaging, and a few other things to keep an eye out for, but did you know that there is plenty of stuff that ends up in your bin that’s not recyclable at all? 

5 Things You’ll Find in a Recycling Bin That Aren’t Recyclable

Recycling can be complicated. But choosing to recycle means we’re all trying our best to keep waste out of landfills and reduce what we throw away. And since you’ve probably got the basics of recycling down (plastic with plastic, etc), we want to help you take things to the next level by helping you find the items in your bin that risk contaminating the batch at recycling centers.

2 inch by 2 inch (or smaller) plastics

We’ve been there. Grabbing up every little piece of plastic to place in our recycling bin to make sure it doesn’t end up in the trash. But sadly, not all plastic is created equal. So when it comes to small, hard plastic pieces, adding them to your recycling bin can cause more trouble than you’d expect. Since these pieces are so small, they often slip through literal cracks in the system and risk contaminating batches of other recyclables.

White or dark colored #1 type plastic

“Number 1 type plastic is the most broadly recyclable plastic.” Sound familiar? Of course this statement is true, but not as universally true as you might think. Because this type of plastic is meant to be reused, it’s really only clear or transparent blue and green plastics that work in the process. Otherwise, solid white or dark colored plastics are not as universally reusable and therefore not as universally accepted.

Refrigerator or freezer cardboard boxes

We’re going to go ahead and guess that there’s a refrigeration-friendly cardboard box in your recycling bin right now, isn’t there? Don’t worry, this one was big news for a lot of us at Hive, too. But unfortunately, since many manufacturers use glue and other substances in the cardboard packaging that’s intended to go in a refrigerator (think shiny surface freezer food, soda, beer, seltzer), it’s no longer recyclable with other cardboard boxes. And placing it with them risks the dreaded contamination we mentioned before.

Mixed plastic containers

Before you toss that bottle or jar into your recycling bin, take a look at the label. If it’s a shrink wrap plastic label, you should separate the label from the bottle and dispose of it according to the recommended guidelines for its plastic type. Another common culprit? Deodorant canisters. These are almost always made of mixed plastic and shouldn’t be lumped in with your recycling. And if you happen to have a can with a plastic shrink wrap, those two can never go together. Because mixing plastic and metal at a recycling center just doesn’t work. So be sure to take the labels off cans.

Flexible films and pouches

How many times have you dropped the film peeled off a seal or a plastic pouch from inside a box in with your other plastics? A lot of us at Hive did this more times than we could count before we learned the truth about these plastics; They aren’t broadly recyclable. That means adding them to the bin doesn’t help the plastic in the bin or the packaging you just tore off avoid becoming waste. Occasionally, some places do take these items, so check with your local recycler.

So what can you do?

In the case of all the plastics we mentioned, you can send them to TerraCycle, the social enterprise dedicated to eliminating waste. If you shop with us, you can buy an envelope with your order to ship your hard to recycle plastics and other packaging materials straight back to us to be picked up by TerraCycle. This gives your packaging a chance at a better life (like as a park bench). And don’t worry, the envelope itself is TerraCycle-able, too. If you’re looking to shop products with limited plastic (or no plastic at all), you’re in the right place. Our Cut Down on Plastic collection is the perfect starting point.

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