A man in a green shirt with a thought bubble containing a green recycling symbol. ZTERS logo in the top left.

Rethink These Common Recycling Myths

Today is Global Recycling Day and that calls for a celebration. The growing focus on recycling is essential for protecting our natural resources and is just one of many ways to reduce your carbon footprint. From recycling cans and bottles to recycling building materials, there are tons of ways that you can help pitch in. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together.

As waste disposal experts, we know just how important recycling is for reducing landfill waste and living more sustainably. On this Global Recycling Day, we believe it’s the perfect time to dispel some common recycling myths.

1. Recycled items just become trash

This myth is circulated often, leading people to throw their hands up in the air. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has confirmed that sometimes contamination does, in fact, make certain items unfit for recycling. However, many recycling centers use technology to separate these materials and find other ways to reuse them.

It’s untrue to say that every single thing you put in the recycling bin will be recycled; however recycling companies work to find opportunities for disposal/repurposing instead of rushing right to landfills.

You can do your part by ensuring that what you’re tossing into the recycling bin is fit for recycling. Empty containers should be rinsed out. Be careful not to put items like greasy pizza boxes in the recycling as that grease can contaminate recyclable items. 

2. Everything with a triangular recycling label is recyclable

The number you see inside the triangular symbol is called a resin identification code (RIC). The numbers 1-6 represent the specific type of plastic that the item is made from. The number 7 is not actually recyclable across most of the country so don’t go throwing it in your recycling bin. These numbers weren’t necessarily created for consumers, but rather as a way to maintain more consistent plastic manufacturing.

There have been steps to make more intuitive recycling labels and many big brands are on board with it.

3. You can’t recycle crushed cans or bottles

Keep in mind that you don’t need to crush your cans or plastic bottles before recycling them. Leave that to the heavy recycling machinery. Although, you can still recycle your crushed cans and bottles. It can be harder for sorting machines to identify crushed cans and bottles, but it’s still possible. 

4. Recycling does not stimulate the economy

This recycling myth is flat-out untrue. A 2016 study by the EPA and other recycling coalitions found that recycling generated a total of 757,325 jobs, $36.6 billion in wages, and $6.7 billion in tax revenue. These jobs stimulate local economies as well and that tax revenue can go towards important sectors like public transit, social services, and public health. It’s also important to note that producing new products from scratch costs more than utilizing recycled materials.

The recycling industry continues to grow and contribute to the economy. Between 2018 and 2023, the recycling facilities industry grew an average of 5.1% each year. That’s a notable increase and is promising for the future of recycling. 

5. We’re already recycling as much as we can

Unfortunately, this recycling myth isn’t true. There are still tons of ways that we can improve our recycling habits. Think about some of the public spaces and stores you frequent. Do they have separate bins for recycling and garbage? Are you and your neighbors well familiar with what can and cannot be recycled? There are always ways we can do better and being knowledgeable is one of them!

The EPA has put forward a National Recycling Goal, hoping to reach 50% by 2030. Some cities including San Diego, Seattle, and Boise are enacting stricter recycling laws to increase the rate of recycling. Check out some of these tips to recycle better.

ZTERS may be orange, but we’re always working to be more green too. Happy Global Recycling Day!