Recycling do's and don't's — think before you can your cans

I think we can all agree on the merits of recycling. It helps conserve the earth’s resources, keeps landfills from overflowing and is relatively effortless; recycling doesn’t require you to do much more than to simply put the right objects into the correct bins.

I can’t tell you, however, how many times I’ve seen recyclable objects thrown in the trash and unrecyclable items thrown in the recycling bins. But far be it from me to condemn anyone on this matter; I myself have been guilty of both of the aforementioned. Luckily, these common mistakes can be solved with a little bit of education on the do’s and don’ts of recycling. So without further ado, I present to you a lesson in recycling etiquette: 

Let’s start off with plastic. Virtually all plastic beverage bottles are recyclable but unfortunately their caps aren’t. Bottle caps are made from a different type of plastic than the rest of the bottle and therefore can’t be mixed in with the other plastics. So before you toss your empty soda bottle in the recycling bin remember to twist the cap off and throw it in the trash. Also, you should rinse out the bottle if it contains anything other than water so that the sticky-sweet dregs of your drink don’t attract bugs or leak a gooey mess when compacted and shipped.  

Another thing to remember when recycling plastics is to check the number inside the three-arrowed recycling symbol on the bottom of the container that tells you what type of plastic it is. Geneseo can only recycle plastics that are numbers one and two. So if you’re looking to recycle your enormous venti Starbucks cup, you’re out of luck: it will end up in the trash anyway, even if you put it in the glass-plastic-metal receptacles on campus. Personally, I recommend saving those cups and reusing them, which is even better than recycling and most certainly better than throwing them in the trash. Or better yet, use a reusable mug next time you need your caffeine fix.

It’s also surprising how much paper gets thrown away. Paper actually makes up the largest portion of municipal waste in the United States and so much of it can be recycled. In addition to your average printer paper, you can also recycle your cereal boxes and toilet paper rolls as well as pizza boxes (as long as they’re free of food fragments and grease). Unfortunately, milk and juice cartons are not recyclable due to their waxy lining. Just make sure to flatten out all these items before you put them into the paper recycling bins.

If you’re recycling a glass jar or bottle and it has a metal lid or cap, you should remove it from the glass item and place them both in the recycling bin separately. You should also remember to clean out all items before recycling them. Also, plastic bags from Wegmans and Wal-Mart cannot be recycled on campus; they must be taken back to their respective stores for recycling.

For more information on what’s recyclable on campus, check out: geneseo.edu/ehs/recycling.