2011-02-17 / Editorial

Debunking myths about recycling

By Mike Testa

There are myths associated with just about every topic known to man – from historical events to health concerns. Most of us are familiar with them and likely have even fallen for a few. Even recycling – one of the most important acts we can do to protect our environment—has its own set of myths. In an effort to debunk the biggest recycling myths, R.I. Resource Recovery is shedding light on some of the most common misconceptions.

Myth No. 1: Thieves can steal my identity from papers I recycle.

While identity theft occurs, it is not as widespread as the media leads you to believe. By shredding important documents and credit card applications, you can safeguard your identity and still recycle. Simply put the shredded paper in a paper shopping bag, staple the bag closed, and place the bag in your green bin. If you are overly concerned about concealing your name and address, rip the labels and magazine covers off and shred those too. Paper is a valuable commodity and needs to be recycled.

Myth No. 2: A triangular recycling symbol means it is recyclable.

This one is tricky, but it is false. Most plastic containers are stamped with the triangular “chasing arrows” symbol on the bottom. The number inside the triangle identifies what type of plastic the container is, but it’s not a green light to recycle it. In Rhode Island, only plastic bottles and jugs with the numbers 1 and 2 can be recycled. Labels don’t need to be peeled off, but remember to throw the cap in the trash because it’s made from a different type of plastic resin that can’t be recycled.

Myth No. 3: I have to take all the labels off my jars and cans.

We are happy to shatter this myth. Many people cite this reason for not recycling, and it simply isn’t the case. Recycling technology has advanced over the years, and doesn’t require us to remove labels anymore. Metal lids can be recycled as well. Give the jars, cans, and lids a quick rinse – it doesn’t have to be scrubbed clean – to reduce odors.

Myth No. 4: Recycling takes too much time and effort.

It is quite the opposite, in fact. It takes mere minutes a day to recycle. Look at this way: Keeping recyclable items out of your wastebaskets at home means fewer trips out to the garage or curb with the trash. For those communities where households pay by the bag, recycling is a fast and easy way to lighten the load, literally, and reduce the number of trash bags. It is cost-effective and beneficial to the earth. We create the trash; we need to take responsibility for properly disposing of it as well.

Myth No. 5: Paper items can be put in the trash since they break down in a landfill.

Unfortunately, they don’t. Landfi lls are covered every day with 6-12 inches of soil that seals in the garbage and protects it from the elements needed for decomposition – sunlight, oxygen and water. In fact, a newspaper put in the landfill a decade ago would still be readable today if it were uncovered.

Myth No. 6: Most of my mail isn’t recyclable because of the window envelopes or staples.

This is one of the biggest misconceptions of all. All mail including magazines, catalogs, store circulars, window envelopes, greeting cards and postcards can and should be put in the green bin for recycling. If you want to shred any paper that has your name on it, recycle the shreds.

Mike Testa is a member of the Jamestown Recycling Committee

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