It’s a similar struggle for many: You walk over to the recycling bin, look at the item in your hand, and ask yourself, “Is this recyclable?”
As climate change in Austin becomes increasingly apparent, people may end up tossing plastic cutlery, Styrofoam, and even HEB plastic grocery bags into recycling in the hopes that they will be diverted from the landfill and become useful once again.
The process of throwing non-recyclable items into the recycling bin is known as “recycling craving,” and it’s actually doing more harm than good. On this National Recycling Day, the American statesman asked the city some of the most burning questions about what goes into the blue bin or, for apartment dwellers, the city’s recycling bins.
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What plastic items can be recycled?
Austinites are encouraged to recycle hard plastics such as water and soda bottles, jars and tubs, non-battery operated toys, buckets, baskets and lawn chairs.
If you’re recycling a plastic bottle or jug, remember to keep the lid on when you place it in your blue bin. If you place the bottle cap separate from the bottle, the cap cannot be processed through the recycling machines.
Are the red Solo cups recyclable?
A survey by HomeAdvisor found that Austin-area residents are more curious about whether red Solo cups are recyclable.
In Austin, red Solo cups can be recycled with the city’s regular collection service. So after your next party, feel free to toss them in your blue bin.
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Can I recycle plastic bags?
The answer to that question is no, and yes. The City of Austin does not allow plastic bags, including freezer bags or any type of plastic grocery bags, in its residential recycling because they often get caught inside the machines and tear them apart.
So what can you do with all those plastic bags once their useful life is over?
Grocery stores will often accept unwanted plastic bags and recycle them in ways that won’t damage sorting machines. from austin Recycle and Reuse Drop-Off Center, at 2514 Business Center Drive in southeast Austin, does the same. The center, near Ben White Boulevard and Todd Lane, accepts any and all plastic bags, but appointments are required to drop them off. Appointments can be easily made online at austintexas.gov/dropoffschedule.
City leaders are still encouraging residents to stop using plastic bags altogether, asking everyone to switch to reusable bags.
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What about Styrofoam?
Styrofoam is recyclable, but again not in the blue bin. This item needs special processing, so it must be delivered by appointment to the city’s Recycling and Reuse Drop-Off Center. This includes Styrofoam packaging, cups, and to-go containers, as long as the items are clean and dry.
Styrofoam peanuts are too small to process, so you should reuse them or avoid them altogether whenever possible. “We recommend replacing Styrofoam with reusable items or other materials where possible,” city officials said in a statement. “For example, you can bring your own reusable container to take home leftovers instead of using the Styrofoam container provided.”
This city recycling idea also makes a good case for being a Statesman subscriber: “Consider reusing newspaper as packing material instead of buying packing peanuts.”
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Midterms are over; How do I recycle my election posters?
Take your election signs to the Recycling and Reuse Drop-Off Center to have them recycled; no citation is necessary for those items. There will be a collection box out front for signs only (corrugated plastic signs and metal frames to support them will be accepted).
What common items should be in the recycle bin but often aren’t?
“Glass bottles and aluminum cans can be recycled an infinite number of times; they do not degrade or lose quality when recycled,” city leaders said. “However, they take thousands of years to decompose in the landfill.
“Aluminum is not only 100% recyclable, but it also uses 95% less energy to recycle an old can into a new one. Yet Americans still throw away more than 1 million tons of aluminum each year.”
What about batteries and old electronic devices?
Old batteries and electronics should never be placed in a residential recycling bin, as they can easily start fires at sorting facilities.
Many electronic devices are accepted in the city Recycle and Reuse Drop-Off Center.
People with electronics that are still usable can search the Austin Reuse Directory to find a place to donate, sell, repair or rent used items. Austin, Cedar Park and Round Rock residents have access to the locations within the directory.
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Can I recycle plastic cutlery?
Every plastic fork, spoon or knife you put in your recycling bin will eventually end up in the landfill. Those items are too small to recycle, so residents should actively try to avoid using them.
Purchasing a reusable travel-size cutlery set can help reduce the estimated 40 billion pieces of plastic cutlery thrown away each year.
I have no compost collection; That I have to do?
Items that should only go for composting include greasy pizza boxes, napkins, and other dirty papers. These items, unfortunately, have to go in the trash if composting is not available. But if the top of the pizza box is clean of grease and food, it can be torn off and recycled.
For apartment dwellers who want to learn how to compost, there are several do-it-yourself homemade compost bins available for less than $100. Then you can compost at home, turning food scraps and dirty paper products into new soil for your garden or houseplants.
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