I frequently find myself defending the sanctity and delicacy of recycling programs. Almost every day I patiently answer questions as to why something can, or more often cannot, be recycled or composted. People frequently and emphatically say to me "Well there is a little recycling symbol on this product - so that means I can recycle it ... Right?!" Well in a word - No! Just because a manufacturer has decided to do a little "greenwash marketing" and put a recycling symbol on their product does not mean it is recyclable in your local 'hood. Granted the item might be recyclable somewhere in the world - but that somewhere may not be in your favorite recycling bin!
So here is the deal - a manufacturer wants you to feel good, and a little greener, about buying their product. They can, and will, put almost "anything" on their packaging that will serve them best! That "anything" will benefit them and their bottom line; and perhaps not you and most definitely NOT your area's recycling program. These inaccurately labeled products wind up at the recycling center and cost a lot of money to pull out of the recycling stream - this is called "contamination". A little bit of contamination can cause a huge headache at the recycling/composting facilities. Contamination undermines our programs and cost us more in the longrun by garbage and recycling collection fee increases.
One example is plastics - plastic wrappers, plastic containers, plastic everything - yuck! We eat out of it, we drink out of it and it's now contaminating our oceans (Google - The Great Pacific Garbage Patch for a real wake up call!) Almost all Plastics all have little recycling symbols on them and many mean nothing! In most of the Puget Sound area we now recycle by shape of the plastic containers - bottles, jugs, dairy tubs ... but each city/county area takes something different! More confusion! The best advice I have to give you - is save the recycling instructions your city/county or recycling service provider sends you every year. Oops! You accidentally recycled your instructions (perhaps thinking it was junk mail ), there's a remedy for that too, waste free recycling instructions can be found online through your service provider or city/county solid waste division.
Oh and one more thing - let's work together to let manufactures know that we want them to quit sending us garbage! Learn all you can about a topic called Producer and/or Manufacturer's Responsibility. This is a concept where environmental and recycling industry experts work with Manufacturer's (well the ones that step up to the green plate anyway) so they will do a better job of choosing materials to manufacturer their products from that are really, truly recyclable! Check out the link below and/or sign up for the Northwest Product Stewardship Council Newsletter: http://www.productstewardship.net/
It is a great place to start! Thanks for recycling and reducing waste!