Ending the Confusion on how to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle


A Teens Perspective on Recycling

Living in an apartment for the first time has brought a few challenges: cooking for myself, cleaning, even keeping the toilet paper filled. But knowing what to recycle and what to throw away continues to challenge me.

This challenge was presented to me today as my roommate and I had yet another argument about what could be recycled and what could not be. He continues to throw a very thin, unlabeled plastic with no recycle symbol from a cookie container in the recycle. I continue to remind him that, although I am all for recycling whatever I can, that it cannot be recycled. As I researched it, I found that I was right based upon the type of plastic it was. He, however, intends to throw it in the recycle anyway.

I recycle cardboard boxes, my milk bottles, Diet Coke cans, and all the rest. But there are so many items in the gray area that sometimes it is difficult to know what to do. So many items that can be recycled end up in the trash because people do not know that can be recycled. And evidently, as shown by my roommate’s recycling confusion, so many items that get thrown in the recycle do not belong there and contaminate the items that can be recycled.


Recycling is important for our environment, so be sure to do it, and do it right! Here are a few tips for recycling properly that you might not have known:

  1. Although some locations accept plastics #1-#7, each local center is different. Check with your program to see which types of plastics it accepts.
  2. Do not recycle plastic bags, and do not recycle anything in a plastic bag. Plastic bags are contaminants! Scrap metal, hazardous waste, diapers, flattened containers, shredded paper also should not be recycled. You should also check to make sure that the cap on the bottle you are recycling can be recycled. If not, be sure to remove the cap.
  3. There are many non-recyclable glasses, including Ceramic, china, dishes, mirrors, light bulbs, Pyrex, porcelain and window glass. Recyclable glass generally refers to jars and glass bottles!
  4. The following can be recycled: clear glass containers, colored glass containers, high-grade office paper, newsprint, cardboard, aluminum cans, steel and bi-metallic parts, certain plastics. Be sure to contact your local program for special instructions.


There are also other things to do for the environment, other than recycling!

  1. Reuse—If you have plastic bags from shopping, reuse them as garbage bags, storage bags, bags for wet clothing and more! Reusing plastic water and soda bottles has been very controversial, specifically in regards to causing cancer, but you can buy reusable bottles! You can also buy reusable bags for when you go shopping.
  2. Reduce—Limit the amount of waste you throw away. Avoid buying items with packaging that can only be thrown away.
  3. Compost—Compost your food and other trash that can be used as compost. Do not use bones, meat, eggs (although egg shells are okay), cheese, and other dairy products or oils in the compost.


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