According to the EPA, Americans recycled 65 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2010; 136 million tons of waste still ended up in landfills. “Part of the problem is that recycling has gotten confusing, largely because it’s managed by our local governments,” says recycling expert Patty Moore. So while one town might recycle glass, another may not. The only way to know for sure is to check with your local city hall, or visit a site such as earth911.com, which allows you to enter your Zip code to see what you can recycle, and where. For more savvy recycling tips, heed Moore’s advice:
Don’t be confused by the numbers and symbols on plastic. “They don’t mean an item can or cannot be recycled,” Moore says. “in fact, the only way to tell is to check with your local community program.”
Consider everything. In many locations, even large plastic items like 5-gallon buckets and lawn furniture can be recycled. So can freezer boxes, which were long thought to be unrecyclable because of their coating.
Reuse packing materials. Visit loosefillpackaging.com to find a location that will accept your materials for reuse.
Compost your water filters. If your city accepts them, dry the filter and then poke a hole in it to remove and compost the contents. You can then recycle the plastic housing. If not, visit the manufacturer’s website for info, because many do offer recycling programs.
Rinse the gunk. Items that have food or film on them can be recycled, but don’t do it, period. “It’s important to know that recycling systems still involve human sorting, and a stinky milk jug or a dirty paper plate is disgusting and inconsiderate,” Moore says.