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What Happens to Recyclable Garbage Put in the Wrong Bin

Posted by on September 24, 2018
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According to the Toronto Star, “Ontario has a waste problem; every year, Ontario produces nearly one tonne of waste per person and three-quarters of [this waste] ends up in landfills.”

Although switching to environmentally conscious methods of waste reduction (like composting or recycling) is encouraged, a vast amount of recycled waste still ends up in landfills. The reason for this is that people are recycling wrong with contaminated and non-recyclable objects ending up in the wrong bin. By brushing up on your recycling practices and by learning what happens to recyclable garbage put in the wrong bin, you can begin to change the efficiency of recycling practices in your local community.

Dealing with Contaminated Recyclables

You might not think about what you are putting into your recycling bin, but it may be time to start.

The argument of what should and should not be recycled is a two-sided issue. On the one hand, there is far too much organic and recyclable materials ending up in landfills that are releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere but, on the other side, people are recycling wrong. Statistics published by the Toronto Star suggest that “last year, 45,000 tonnes of garbage and other non-recyclables were mistakenly put into blue bins in Toronto.”

According to a CBC article entitled Many Canadians are recycling wrong, and it costs us millions, “Canadians are throwing too much garbage into their blue bins, sometimes out of laziness or ignorance, but sometimes with the best of intentions. And it costs recycling programs millions of dollars a year.” As the article states, even a spoonful of peanut butter left in the bottom of the jar “can contaminate a tonne of paper and make it unmarketable — destined for the dump. Same for that glob of yogurt left in the bottom of the container.”

What Should and Shouldn’t Be Going in Your Blue Bin

What belongs or doesn’t belong in a blue bin can cause a lot of confusion. It is mostly understood that the blue bin is where containers and paper belong, but the problem is not every container or paper product belongs there.

When trying to decide whether to put a piece of trash in a garbage can or into your blue bin, here are a couple of questions you can consider to aid in your decision:

What belongs or doesn’t belong in a blue bin can cause a lot of confusion. It is mostly understood that the blue bin is where containers and paper belong, but the problem is not every container or paper product belongs there.

When trying to decide whether to put a piece of trash in a garbage can or into your blue bin, here are a couple of questions you can consider to aid in your decision:

Is it breakable? If you can break it with your hands, it should go in the garbage. Items like light bulbs or ceramic items do not belong in your blue bin. Try turning them into a mosaic instead but, if a glass item breaks, you could be putting a waste management employee at risk of an injury or cause a whole load of potentially recyclable items to be sent to the dump instead.

Is it dirty or wet? Putting food or wet objects into your blue bin contaminates the system. Damp cardboard or food containers that have not be washed out cannot be used – once again, they will go to the dump.

Can it be ripped? Paper plates, styrofoam, plastic bags, and candy wrappers do not belong in a recycling bin. These kinds of plastics and paper products cannot be recycled because such products are made from a mixture of different materials that make recycling them difficult and expensive.

Is the bottle hazardous or unmarked? Unmarked bottles and empty motor oil bottles are considered hazardous materials and should never enter your blue bin.

If you are every unsure as to whether something can be recycled or not, don’t be shy about looking it up. If you are going to recycle, do your best to do it right.

As a side note, always remember to wash out your recyclables and dry them after. You should always recycle containers without their lids.

For a complete list of what to recycle click here.

Recycling Tips and Tricks

  • Consider the four R’s of waste reduction (reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot).
  • Become familiar with what is acceptable to put in your recycling bin.
  • Find apps and online resources to use if you need a quick answer to whether something can be recycled or not. You might also find it helpful to print off some reference sheets to keep on your fridge, in your workspace, and above your blue bin. Always ensure that you provide clear and visible guidelines to help those you live or work with recycle right.
  • Flatten cardboard boxes, cans, and plastic containers.
  • The most common misconception is that disposable coffee cups belong in your blue bin, but they belong in the garbage. The best thing you can do is invest in a reusable cup but if you do find yourself with a paper cup, make sure it goes into the garbage. These cups are lined with either plastic or wax that makes them useless. The lids that they come with also have to go into the trash.

For more information on recycling, contact Red Bins at 416-733-2467 today or click here to visit our website!