As I've mentioned before in this space, recycling is confusing. The rules keep changing and "recyclable" packaging often has non-recyclable bits mixed in with it. But the good news is there are actually more things out there that you can recycle than you realized.
I spoke to Caroline Cox and Jessica Edington, project managers at How2Recycle, a membership-based labeling program initiated by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition that's working to demystify the process by putting detailed recycling labels on packaged goods, to see if I was missing anything.
Actually, I went through my garbage and made a list of the things in there to see if I was forgetting to recycle anything. It was pretty gross. Luckily, it was a worthwhile endeavor. Turns out, there are a few things I should have been recycling. Are you making the same mistakes?
1. Milk cartons and other coated cardboard
It used to be that these waxy cartons — which are often made of paper then covered with clay and/or plastic — couldn't be recycled. That has changed relatively recently, so now most locations will take them — just double check with your town or center first.
2. Pizza boxes
There is a lot of confusion over pizza boxes in particular, because soiled items are often tricky for the processors to recycle. But Cox and Edington assure me that corrugated cardboard is among the more valuable paper products you can recycle. As long as it's not saturated in grease (and that you don't leave your cups of extra garlic butter in there), the pizza box can go in the recycling bin.
3. Plastic bags
While plastic bags should not go into your recycle bin — plastic bags and wraps can get caught in recycling equipment and cause jams — they are still recyclable and a fairly hot commodity on the recyclables market. Your best bet: Bundle them up and take them to the nearest grocery store that offers plastic bag recycling.
4. Water filters
Your recycling center probably isn't equipped to handle water filters, but most filter manufacturers have some sort of take-back program.
5. Wine corks
Be honest — you know you have a few each month (week?). They're too small to go into the recycling (they can jam the machines). Instead, check ReCORK to find a drop-off location near you, so the little guys can be turned into new corks, bulletin boards, flooring, or something else.
Have you been recycling these things?