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  • Writer's pictureHazel Verbo

Common Recycling Myths Debunked & Sustainable Alternatives To Recycling

The #recycling industry is changing rapidly, as are advancements in materials science and product #design. The field has an increasingly #global #footprint and is affected by complex forces, from oil prices to national policies and consumer preferences.

Most experts agree that recycling remains an important way to #reduce #litter and #waste. It also #recovers valuable #materials while reducing #greenhouse gas emissions and conserving significant amounts of #energy and #water. However, here are some other things to keep in mind:

Recycling myths

Myth #1: You Should Crush Your Cans Before Recycling Them

The best practices for recycling change over time. Crushing #cans is no longer necessary. In fact, it can cause issues for recycling centres. It can cause cans to be missorted as a flat. After the materials get brought into the facility, they get separated out into two groups: flat items (like paper and cardboard) and non-flat items (like metal, glass, and plastic). If the cans have been crushed, they have a high likelihood of getting missorted as paper or cardboard and contaminating that stream.

Myth #2: Recycling Centers Accept Containers With Food in Them

There’s a huge reason why recycling centres say to #clean out your jars and other food containers: If you don’t, they won’t be recycled. That’s because they have real folks working at the facility. So when you give them packaging that spill onto other materials, they can’t sell those materials. While you don’t need to thoroughly scrub every container, make sure to rinse them out and get rid of any visible food. That way, they’ll be able to get processed.

Myth #3: Plastic Bags Can Go in Your Recycling Bin

While plastic bags are recyclable, they typically aren’t allowed in curbside bins. They have all these moving gears and wheels in the facility, and when you put in a plastic bag, it does a great job of jamming that machinery up. They have to shut everything down and send someone in there to try to cut out all the plastic bags. It’s a huge waste of time and energy—not to mention kind of a safety hazard.

Instead, look for drop-off bins in your area where you can recycle plastic bags. They’re commonly found at supermarkets, retailers like Target and Walmart, co-ops, and smaller recycling centers. To find a location near you, use this directory.

Myth #4: Recyclable Materials Can Always Be Recycled

Recycling is complicated for many reasons. One of the main ones being that just because a material is recyclable doesn’t mean it’s always going to be recycled. In reality, it only works if there’s a demand for a material to be turned into a new product. It’s not just about whether that item inherently is good at being turned into something else. It depends on whether there’s local infrastructure and facilities that can manage and sort those materials. And whether there’s a market for those materials, which will buy them and turn them into something new.

Take glass, for instance. It’s an inherently good material at being melted down and turned into a new product. You can recycle it over and over again. But if we don’t have a way to collect that glass and sort it from other materials, can't find someone to buy it and turn it into the new glass products, or find a way to transport it, then we can’t recycle glass. Within every community, there’s going to be a different set of guidelines, because it depends on all of those different factors.

Myth #5: Only Machines Sort Materials in Recycling Facilities

People often forget there are real people working in recycling facilities. So if you throw in your toxic waste or even your food that’s about to go mouldy, someone is going to have to grab it, and someone’s going to have to deal with it. So it’s more than an environmental issue. It’s a human issue because there are real, live workers that have to touch your waste.

Myth #6: Anything With a Recycling Symbol On It Is Recyclable

Contrary to popular belief, just because something has a recycling symbol on it doesn’t mean it’s recyclable. The resin identification code, which is the number inside of the symbol on plastic items, helps us understand what type of plastic an item is made of. But that piece of information is just one of many that determines an item’s recyclability. Equally important factors include size, colour, whether there are mixed materials present that are attached, the condition of the item (for instance, how clean it is), and the infrastructure that region has in place for processing that item.

Recycling tips

Recycling does not have to be a chore, with a few simple changes it can be seamlessly integrated into everyday life. The more you recycle, the better it is for the environment, and the better it is for your pocket. Even if you do recycle your waste, there are probably still more items that you can recycle or reuse than you realise.

Recycling doesn’t have to be difficult; follow these simple tips to recycle more at home, work, and school.


You can make a big difference by recycling at home, here’s how:

  • Have a system: keep a recycling bag, box, or bin next to your rubbish bin as a reminder for everyone in your house to recycle.

  • Flatten cardboard boxes: you can fit more into your recycling box or bin that way

  • Recycle plastic bottles: don’t forget items like shampoo and mouthwash bottles. Most councils will accept a majority of plastic, though if in doubt, the label on the bottle should tell you it's recyclable.

  • Recycle all paper and cardboard: it’s not just newspapers that you can recycle; envelopes, wrapping paper, birthday cards (as long as they don’t contain glitter) and phone books can all be recycled. All types of cardboard can be recycled, so don’t forget the toilet roll tubes and drinks cartons.

  • Most metals can be recycled: items like aerosols and kitchen foil can be processed, as well as your tins and cans.

  • Keep a carrier bag in the hallway: this way, you can collect any junk mail and put it in the recycling.

  • Make a point of going to a recycling point: if you do this on the way to work, or the supermarket, recycling becomes a part of your routine.

  • If you aren’t sure what you can recycle, look it up: check your local council’s website for advice and information on what you can and can’t recycle.


Improving recycling at work makes good economic sense. Estimates suggest that the UK industry could make savings of up to £6.4 billion by reducing waste and using resources more efficiently.

  • Set up a recycling scheme: it reduces waste being sent to landfills, saves energy, benefits the planet, and saves your company money.

  • Promote your scheme with posters placed around your workplace. Station recycling containers in convenient locations.

  • Recycle for charity: some items such as mobile phones, computer equipment, stamps, and printer cartridges can all be recycled to help to raise funds for charities.


  • Have recycling points stationed around the school: if possible, have a recycling bin, bag, or container in every room. Offices, staff rooms, and kitchens are areas where a lot of waste is generated and potentially thrown away. Have a recycling container next to general waste bins as a prompt to get people to think before they throw.

  • Get everyone involved: teachers should lead by example by recycling as much as possible and encouraging pupils to be involved as well. All school staff, such as cleaners and teaching assistants should be involved so that everyone knows the expectations across the board.

  • Improve awareness of recycling: use posters to raise awareness of the importance of recycling and clearly label recycling points.

  • Review and monitor: keep track of recycling levels and use this information to motivate people to keep the effort going. If the levels drop, make changes to recycling activities to boost morale.

Going beyond recycling - Sustainable alternatives


While recycling can turn our waste into new products or energy, reducing the amount of waste we create in the first place is even better. An easy way to do this is to shop smart when you go to the supermarket.

  1. Take your own bags when you go shopping: this means you avoid using plastic bags unnecessarily and paying the charge.

  2. Plan your meals and make a list before going shopping: this will help you to avoid over consuming and buying things you don’t need.

  3. Buy refills: buying refills of detergents, coffee, and hand wash is more environmentally friendly and it’s usually cheaper.

  4. Avoid excess packaging: packaging adds cost to goods, is damaging to the environment, and excess packaging is wasteful. Look for unpackaged products or buy products that are wrapped in recyclable material.

  5. Avoid disposable items: buy rechargeable batteries, low-energy light bulbs, and razors with interchangeable heads.

Recycling is one of the staples of the environmental movement. There are thousands of items you probably use every day that are made up of recycled materials. Contrary to common belief, products made from these materials are just as comparable in quality to other non-recycled alternatives.

The myths surrounding recycling programs are problematic because they deter home and business owners from participating in a practical, environmentally-friendly task.

Recycling is easy, especially in a single-stream system. There is absolutely no reason to refuse to recycle your waste. Whether you own a home, business, or other commercial property, contact a waste management service to set up your recycling program today. Implementing a program is the first step in reducing your impact on our environment.

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