Recyclable or Not? Rethinking the Disposal of Commonly Misplaced Items

Recyclable or Not? Rethinking the Disposal of Commonly Misplaced Items

, by Planet Green, 4 min reading time

Recycling has become an integral part of our efforts to reduce waste and protect the environment. However, many commonly recycled items pose challenges due to the need for specialized recycling treatment or contamination issues. Items such as toothpaste tubes, takeaway packaging, juice cartons, and inkjet cartridges often end up in recycling bins, but their improper disposal hampers the recycling process. We need to look at the complexities surrounding these items and explore alternative disposal methods to ensure their proper handling.

One daily item we dispose of is toothpaste tubes. Typically made of a combination of plastics and aluminum, they are often mistakenly placed in recycling bins. The multi-layered structure of these tubes requires specialized recycling facilities to separate and process the materials effectively. Unfortunately, such facilities are not commonly available. Therefore, toothpaste tubes are best disposed of through alternative means, such as participating in manufacturer take-back programs or exploring waste-to-energy options, but they shouldn’t go into the blue plastic bin as they get sorted out and go directly into landfills.

Takeaway food packaging is another item we use daily in society but often have little concern for it’s disposal. Disposable cups, food containers, and utensils all pose a significant recycling challenge due to contamination issues. These items are frequently soiled with food residues, grease, or other substances, rendering them difficult to recycle effectively. To ensure proper disposal, it is crucial to separate and clean these items before recycling. However, recycling options may still be limited, and exploring alternatives such as composting or reducing their use altogether may provide a more environmentally friendly.

There is no shortage of juice cartons in the consumer market. Commonly found in virtually every household refrigerator, these are often mistakenly assumed to be recyclable due to their paper-like appearance. However, these cartons are usually composed of multiple layers, including plastic, aluminum, and paper. The separation and recycling of these layers require specialized facilities, which are not universally available. It is essential to check with local recycling programs to determine if juice cartons are accepted or explore alternative disposal methods such as waste-to-energy facilities. In most instances, like toothpaste tubes, they get sorted out of the recyclables and end up in landfills.

Inkjet cartridges are widely used in homes and offices, but their disposal presents unique challenges. While these cartridges are most often recyclable, they require a specialized recycling processes due to their complex construction and potential contamination by residual ink. When put into the blue bin, they get sorted out and end up in landfills at a rate of 1 million cartridges a day in the US alone! Many manufacturers and office supply stores provide collection programs for used inkjet cartridges, allowing consumers to return them for proper recycling. Another option is to send them in to an ink cartridge specific recycler, like Planet Green Recycle in Chatsworth, CA. It is essential to explore these programs and ensure that cartridges are disposed of correctly to maximize their recycling potential.

As consumers, we need to rethink our disposal methods to ensure the proper disposal of items that are either difficult to recycle or highly contaminated.

Here are a few approaches to consider:

  • Reduce and Reuse: The best way to minimize the impact of these challenging items is to reduce their usage and seek reusable alternatives. Opt for refillable toothpaste tubes, reusable takeaway containers, and durable beverage containers to reduce waste generation. Buy remanufactured and recycled and contribute to a circular economy.

  • Separate and Clean: When disposing of potentially recyclable items like takeaway packaging and inkjet cartridges, it is crucial to separate and clean them to improve their recyclability and to follow recycling instructions provided on the packaging. Removing food residues from food packaging and recycling to manufacturer instructions for inkjet cartridges increases the chances of successful recycling.
  • Explore Specialized Programs: Outside of Planet Green Recycle’s ink cartridge submission program, many manufacturers and office supply stores offer collection programs for inkjet cartridges. These initiatives ensure proper recycling and prevent cartridges from ending up in landfills. Research local options to determine if such programs are available.
  • Communicate and Educate: Promote awareness about the complexities of recycling certain items through educational campaigns and community initiatives. Encourage proper disposal methods and emphasize the importance of reducing contamination in recycling streams.

Together, consumers can make a difference in the flow of trash going into landfills and help reduce the spread of waste and toxins entering the environment. Spread the awareness of recycling and make an effort to encourage proper recycling habits within your community. We can leave a cleaner environment for generations to come with simple changes today.


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