What Makes Something Recyclable?

Welcome back to rethink the bins best practices for smart recycling and composting. This is lesson three. In lesson three, we’re going to talk about what makes something recyclable. So, you got three bins, usually recycling, trash, and compost or yard waste. There’s a lot of different things that can be in here. It’s a bit overwhelming, but for this lesson, we’re going to be focusing on the recycling piece. There are three factors that determine whether something is recyclable, science, technology, and economics. By science, I mean is the material, recyclable? Can it be broken down and processed to make new materials to make more finished goods? The second aspect is technology. When the material gets to a sorting facility can the sorting facility identify it and separate it and put it into the correct stream so that it can then go for further processing? The third piece is economics. Can the material be sold for a value that makes it worth the cost of processing it? Is there a market that will buy the material and often that is the big sticking point, especially when it comes to plastics which we’ll talk about more in a future lesson. As for economics, you got to mention The China problem. You may or may not know that in 2018 China stopped a decade’s long practice of accepting shiploads full of trash and recyclables from North America and Europe. This had been an easy market for waste hauling companies in the US to send their highly contaminated waste the stuff they couldn’t easily sell for a lot of money here. They could sell it to China and China would pay and some other countries in Asia to then they abruptly stopped this practice with very little notice. Other countries followed suit. And as a result, real recycling rates have dropped, and many communities are even stopping recycling entirely. But with smart practices, we can reverse the trend. When it comes to best practices, there are two basic ideas, proper sorting, and proper preparation. We’ll get more into that in detail in lesson five when we talk about specific classes of materials, but the basic concept is put only what’s recyclable in the recycling bin, put only what’s compostable in the compost bin. And make sure everything is clean and dry. That’s it for less than three. See you in lesson four.