De-Bunking Recycling Myths

Two people taking a photo of a sorter at the recycling centerKirkland residents work hard to recycle right. But, just where do these recyclables go after you’ve placed them in your recycling cart? Every spring and fall, as a part of Kirkland’s Sustainability Education Series, thirty Kirkland residents see for themselves at an exclusive tour of the Cascade Recycling Center. The tour teaches the ins and outs of recycling, explains why certain materials are accepted and others not, and de-bunks some common recycling myths!

Recycling Myth #1: Check the number on your plastics to see if they are recyclable.

False! Materials are sorted at the recycling center by shape, not by the type of plastic. Sorting lines attended by workers are used to remove any obvious contamination and then machinery is used to sort materials based on shape and weight. For example, the machinery can separate paper and cardboard from other materials because these are 2-D, flat objects versus a 3-D plastic beverage bottle. Check out Waste Management’s video to get a better understanding of what happens at the center!

Carrots from the landfill, not decomposed

Recycling Myth #2: Food waste will break down in the landfill.

False! Landfills have a lot less oxygen than our natural environment with which to break down food waste.  Your banana peel may eventually start to decompose in a landfill, but it will do so very, very slowly.  Don’t believe me? Check out this photo of a carrot that’s been sitting in a landfill for 10 years!

Recycling Myth #3:  Sorting correctly is all you need to do to recycle.

Only half true….  If you want to recycle well, it is important that you only put recyclable materials that are clean and accepted in your City’s recycling guidelines.  These materials are sorted at the recycling center and sold to companies who create new products. BUT (and here is where the half true comes in…), if no one buys these products, the recycling loop isn’t closed.  In order to fully recycle, people need to close the loop by investing in recycled content products.  This can be as easy as purchasing recycled content office paper to using lumber made from recycled plastics.

When people understand how the recycling process works, they learn to recycle better. If people recycle better, entire system functions better. This allows us to conserve more resources, save our residents money, and continue to keep valuable materials from sitting in a landfill.