VPIRG’s Top 5 Ways to Recycle Better

Last week we brought you a list of ways to recycle more. This week we hope you’ll check out our tips on how to recycle better- read on for some common items folks commonly recycle wrong, as well as ways to make sure they’re disposed of properly.

1. Coffee Cups

Last post we talked about recycling coffee lids. Unfortunately, disposable cardboard coffee cups are something that can’t go in your bluebin. These cups are coated with a thin wax to keep liquids from seeping through the paper fibers, making it unrecyclable. Instead, why not save some money and reduce your environmental impact by use a reusable ceramic mug or metal bottle?

2. Caps/Lids

Though disposable coffee cup lids are recyclable, when it comes to other types its all about the size. No caps smaller than 2 inches in diameter are accepted in the blue bin for recycling. Throw smaller plastic caps away before recycling the containers that they came with. Larger caps (plastic or metal), such as those from peanut butter jars, may be added to the blue bin, but should be unscrewed from the container first.

3. K-Cups

Those plastic K-cups for your Keurig machine can’t be included in your blue bin. K-Cups are problematic to recycle because of all the components it takes to make one. Constructed from a combination of plastic, aluminum, organic material (coffee grounds) and a paper filter, K-Cups are tough for single-stream systems to handle. While these items could potentially be recycled separately, the K-Cup as a whole cannot be recycled through our current single-stream system.

Keurig has committed to redesigning their product with more sustainability in mind, click here to learn more.

Or better yet, consider a more sustainable method of getting your morning brew that involves less single-use plastics.

3. Freezer boxes

Most paper recycling companies use water to break down paper into fibers that they can re-form into new products. Freezer foods are laminated with a wax or plastic film that keeps water from penetrating the container- good for preventing spills but bad for recycling. The coating keeps water from breaking the fibers down- so just like coffee cups and gable-top containers, the box from your favorite microwave meal shouldn’t be placed in your blue bins.

4. Gable Top Cartons

Just like coated coffee cups, Right now gable top milk and juice carton’s aren’t allowed in single stream recycling, because of the waxy lining of the cardboard container. Please put these cartons in your regular trash bins.

5. Plastic Bags

There are few things that gum up the single-stream recycling works worse than plastic bags. Materials Recovery Facilities in Vermont (or MRFs) are not currently set up to take plastic bags. Bags actually get caught and clog up the machinery used to process other waste.

The good news is you can still recycle plastic bags by bringing them to your grocery store or other big box stores for recycling- please go the extra mile to make sure your bags get recycled properly.