Recycling Decoded

It appears simple enough. Ha! 建前 [tatemae / facade], Lol!

According to the EPA: “More than 35 million tons of plastics were generated in the United States in 2018 and only 8.7 percent was recycled.” Ok, so the EPA hasn’t updated this information in four (4) years, so there’s that. In addition, likely some of that plastic is intended for long-term use, so the recycling rate will never be 100 percent. But – only 8.7 percent? Really? That’s a bit dismal. 本音 [honne / reality], triste, verdad?

Let’s break-it-down, let’s make some progress:

Top 10 in the Bin” – starting from 10:

10. Plastic Bottles and Caps: Let’s separate this into two categories:

1} ♺ 01 PET water and soda bottles. Yes, ♺ 01 PET bottles are widely accepted for curbside recycling. I think, collectively, we know this.

2} Everything else. Everything else? Maybe, maybe not. This is (as you may know) shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body lotions, hair product containers, face wash, toners, moisturizers, hand sanitizer, hand soap, lip balm, glue sticks, detergents, take-out containers, plastic food containers, and much much more.

You have to look at the number! I live in a town that is not amazing in it’s recycling outreach, nor particularly yearning to adapt, however they do provide consistent curbside pick-up, for which I am very grateful. Items in the ♺1PETE & ♺2HDPE category can also be included for curbside in my town (according to State records), and a quick internet search also seems to agree: ♺1PETE & ♺2HDPE containers can be recycled, and are generally included in neighborhood/town curbside pick-up programs nationwide. This has never been directly communicated from my town, they basically follow the EPA top-sheet, and I am guessing, primarily collect PET bottles (if that).

Nevertheless, there is no requirement for manufacturers to use a widely “curbside-accepted” recyclable material. I just flipped over my 「Eucerin® Extremely Dry, Compromised Skin Cream; Fragrance Free; Dermatological Skincare, by Beiersdorf」 and it’s 5PP, or a “maybe” / “probably not” for the majority of towns in the USA. I enjoy a「Certified B-Corp; Certified Vegan; Gluten Free; Non-GMO」dairy-free, yogurt alternative – same, it is also a 5PP, or a “not-in-my-town”. My shampoo and conditioner, on the other hand, (\o/) are labeled ♺1PETE; my hair products – yes (!), either ♺1PETE or ♺2HDPE. They just have to be rinsed and tossed-in with the rest of my recycling. Not such a big deal, I don’t need to dramatically change my lifestyle, it does not directly cost me anything, and it is actually something I can do. (\o/)

So – look at the label! Buy consumer products that utilize recyclable packaging, and make sure you rinse and include with your curbside recycling. It’s a start! ♺ 01 PET; ♺1PETE; & ♺2HDPE plastics are recyclable, and very likely included in your town’s curbside pick-up program funding.

(Wait, like really? Really! < 3 – let’s all heart “less-than-three”!)

But what about those ♺5PP “maybes“? According to Reader’s Digest, “The USA is well equipped to handle #5 plastics, and PP is recyclable.” However, honestly, we know ♺5PP is not widely accepted in the majority of local curb-side programs. Click HERE to see what is accepted in your area (for example: Quick Search Menu / Click Plastics/ Select #5 Rigid Plastics ) – you could be in-luck (^5). If your town is not collecting ♺5PP contact your local officials, and click HERE (disponible en español) – or contact directly – at and request a more effective roll-out of rigid plastics recycling, as well as better consumer advocacy (on their part, and for the industry as a whole).

9. Jugs – OKay…

8. Jars – (glass and plastic). Glass – rinse the jars, but they can be put in with the rest of your recycling. Plastic – YOU HAVE TO CHECK THE LABEL. ♺ 01 PET; ♺1PETE; & ♺2HDPE plastics are recyclable; ♺5PP are “maybe“.

7. Glass Bottles – OK. Rinsing keeps your weeks-worth of recycling from becoming too disgusting.

6. Food Cans – OK. Remember to rinse.

5. Beverage Cans – OK. Remember to rinse.

STOP: paper and plastic need to be separated.

4. Mail – OK.

3. Food Boxes – OK, easy enough. Cereal boxes, and such. Don’t forget the backside of the toy packaging, etc.

But what about milk cartons? Or any carton for that matter. Tetra Pak is the primary maker of shelf-stable, and refrigerated, packaging cartons (think juice boxes, carton orange juice, carton milk, soy, almond or oat milks). Tetra Pak packaging, regardless of the food brand, is labeled with “Tetra Pak,” and is recyclable. The catch is – it is similar to Plastic’s ♺5PP “maybe” – some municipalities will pick-up curbside, others will not. HERE is a resource to find out if cartons are part of your curbside program, and if not – an advocacy outreach link to sign a petition for inclusion.

FSC is another label you might see on carton packages that are not Tetra Pak. This label is not an indicator of recycling capabilities. It is a sustainable forest initiative, that appeals to have well-meaning intentions. FSC does not currently outline disposal or post-consumer recycling options per their food containers (and hey, why not everything they produce?!). Contact them, tell them this is unacceptable, particularly given their sustainability messaging.

2. Paper – OK.

1. Cardboard – OK

BUT DON’T FORGET: plastic bags and plastic film.

1} Plastic Bags: Select cities, and a few states, have legislation that prohibits the use of single-use plastic bags. If you don’t live in one of those places, retailers such as Target, Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot, and Kohl’s report they maintain in-store recycling kiosks. In addition, you can search the site for store-drop off locations near you.

2} Plastic Film: This is the plastic on your toiletries packaging like toilet paper, tissues, and paper towels; your produce bags, bread bags, and cereal bags. See for store drop-off recycling-kiosk locations. The Wrap Recycling Action Program is a national outreach initiative that aims to make plastic film – including wraps, bags, and flexible packaging – commonly recycle material. Learn how you can get involved.

So – this is a start.

If you are able – make sure you follow-up with your municipality and State to insure funds are being properly utilized for the program they are intended (which, in this case, is recycling). Demand outreach. Demand expansion. Cities and towns have marketing and communications departments. It is difficult for the public to know what they don’t know – and if “nobody is recycling” (because nobody knows all that they can actually recycle), then how will municipal recycling capabilities expand? If you 「”don’t use it” you could “lose it”」 – as the old adage goes.

If you trust someone who works for your town, speak to them, they might be able to put you in touch with the correct outreach person. Or, perhaps – try your local librarian? Additionally, or otherwise, follow-through on the above links. Online communications can make a difference.

So, hey, let’s all try to “separate, rinse and repeat” – it’s easy enough, and the resources are available, let’s try to keep it that way.

{Base graphic for cover image is from: “Reader’s Digest” –}

DOUBLE HAPPINESS 泡泡 by chief&mischief