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Recycling: You're Probably Doing It Wrong

Plastic Bag blowing in wind gif imgur tumblr Mailing Envelopes, and Food Containers Aren't Worth Recycling - CityLab

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Many people simply throw in anything made out of plastic, glass, or metal and hope for the best. But this assorted jumble can cause big issues once it arrives at the processing plant:

Plastic bags

They’re a huge hassle for recyclers because they often fly off or clog sorting machinery. “At the material recovery facility in San Francisco, they have to shut down all the machines every night for at least an hour to go in and manually pick out all the pieces of plastic bag that have gone in there and jammed up the various machines,” Hoover says.

Small scraps of paper

Hoover says it’s “virtually impossible” to separate these shreds from the other materials rolling down the conveyor belt. ”They end up becoming part of the residue that’s left over at the end because they’re so tiny,” says Hoover. “I can’t even pull them out by hand.”

However, that doesn’t mean paper scraps can’t be recycled—just don’t dump them directly into the blue bin. Instead, Hoover says, you can place them in a paper bag, staple it shut, and write “SHREDDED PAPER” on the outside. A person at the processing plant will recognize the bag, remove it from the rest of the recycling stream, and sort it into the paper products.

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