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Understanding a Product’s Recyclability

Posted by Arabesque Said on Mar 1, 2014 8:32:00 AM

colorful-trash-spill_HY_lowMany of us do not have the luxury of extra time to clean the beaches, join environmental organizations, or be part of conservation and rehabilitation efforts.  However, there are many Americans who are dedicated to recycling as many materials as possible every day. Good deed for the day… check. Unfortunately, there are a number of people residing in different municipalities who are not aware of some recycling facts - like those mentioned above - regarding the challenges of recycling various materials.

Here are some facts to consider:

Consider this example: After a long day of work, a good workout at the gym, walking the dogs and playing with the kids you decide to order pizza rather than cook. The family enjoys the mouth-watering cheesy pizza with some wings on the side and a soda or two. Easy cleanup too, right? Simply grab that greasy pizza box and toss it in the recycling bin along with the ¼ full plastic soda bottle left over and what used to be a  box-full of saucy wings. Then you complete the day by reading a magazine and toss it in the recycling bin as a good-faith effort to recycle. Unfortunately, a good-faith effort to recycle may not be successful.

Such is our awareness of what it takes to be able to make a dent on the enormous hurdle we face when it comes to recycling our trash. It is not enough to segregate the trash we make, we must also figure out how to minimize our trash altogether.

The following describes the challenges and solutions for recycling some of our most common trash items:


Various recycling centers in the United States have the capability of recycling items such as pizza boxes; however, this item is problematic for other recycling facilities. The food scraps, grease and cheese on the pizza box can degrade the quality of recycled paper by contaminating the paper recycling process. Coupons and stickers on food boxes contain adhesives that are contaminants as well. This issue can be expensive for the recycling company in addition to the reduced quality of the end product. 

Well here’s what you can do: If your pizza box is completely caked with food or saturated with grease, don't toss it in your recycling bin just yet. If it is only slightly covered with food and grease, research if your local recycler receives this item. If you are still unsure, simply tear the box in half and place the lid without food grease or scraps into your recycling bin and toss the soiled portion into your trash can. 

Recyclers such as Eureka Recycling located in Minneapolis and Denver Recycles in Colorado have developed processes to successfully recycle pizza boxes with grease and food contaminants. These old pizza boxes are turned into new, 100% recycled pizza boxes. A good way to say what goes around comes around.

Cosmetics green-recycle-arrows_fyFSfE_u_L

Women and men use different cosmetic products from face creams to mascara. Product packaging contributes significantly to the trash that ends up in landfills, but not all municipal recycling programs accept these items. There are ongoing and successful product packaging recycling programs, such as the Back to Mac Program and Origins, to promote recycling and reduce waste. 

  • The Back to Mac incentive program works by rewarding customers with a free lipstick after the return of six MAC cosmetic containers. These containers include: eye shadow containers, mascara tubes and foundation compacts among others. Click here to learn more about the program and how you can participate.

  • Origins, a skincare product company, will recycle any cosmetic brand empty container for free. The empty containers are recycled or used for energy recovery. Click here for additional information.

Plastic Bags

Dry-cleaning bags, bread bags, re-sealable sandwich bags, produce bags and the like are accepted by most local recyclers. In case you live in an area that doesn’t, here’s a not so common fact: these plastic bags can be deposited in a grocery bag recycling bin located in many supermarkets. There’s bound to be one near you. For more details, visit: www.mnn.com.

Athletic Shoes

Worn out shoes from every day wear and tear are most commonly thrown in trash bins and end up in the landfill. A better alternative is to throw your old shoes over to Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe recycling bins where they are converted into a material called Nike Grind which is used in running tracks, shoe soles and zippers among other things.

The programs described above will aid in successful recycling efforts.  Additionally, in-depth research you make on the brands you use can provide specific information regarding these companies’ sustainable goals and product materials. Together we can reduce our environmental impact by purchasing products from sustainable companies, addressing emissions, product life cycle, and ingredients.

FirstCarbon Solutions (FCS) can help organizations with their life cycle assessments (LCA) and finding the right supplier with the same sustainability goals with its Supply Link. For more information, click on the link below:

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