PUT A LID ON IT?– Not necessarily, recycling practices need not be perfect


President, Greening Greater Racine

For months I’ve been trying to keep a lid on my feelings about how to properly recycle the tops of product containers.  

Should I leave the metal cap off the empty 8.5-oz. balsamic vinegar bottle prior to pitching it in the recycling bin? Or should I keep it on the bottle? What if I’m supposed to toss the cap in the garbage?  

And what about that metal ring that broke off from the bottom of the cap? It stayed on the bottle neck when I twisted off the cap. Do I pry it from the bottle with pliers?  

Then, what am I supposed to do with the ring, start a jewelry collection? 

Having emptied a half-gallon plastic jug of its 1 percent milk contents, my thoughts turned to that pink lid and the lid’s former mate, the like-colored ring encircling the neck of the jug. Do I repeal the divorce of the lid and the ring and remarry them on the jug before recycling, or permanently separate them and cast them into the trash? 

So many questions and those pertain only to a glass bottle and a plastic jug. 

Recycling Doesn't Have to be Perfect

I needed some answers if I wasn’t to travel a long guilt trip every week when I pushed our garbage cart to the curb, or worse yet, every other week when I set the recycling bin outside for pickup.  

So, I turned to Dan Jongetjas, general manager of Johns Disposal Service Inc., who is a partner with Greening Greater Racine’s Zero Waste Initiative. Johns is the business that accepts recyclables from my home in Mount Pleasant along with those from other communities in Racine and Kenosha counties. It is the first port of call for these materials on their journey through the recycling stream.  

Dan is an empathetic person. He understood my anxiety. He explained that our recycling infrastructure has built-in features that forgive us our blue-bin indiscretions.  

For example, that transparent glass bottle that held balsamic vinegar will be crushed and sorted by color. And the fate of the metal cap and the ring? In a perfect world I would remove them from the bottle and place them in the trash.

But the public doesn’t have to be perfect. Because after the bottle is smashed, a magnet in Johns sorting equipment will pull out the metal cap and ring. 

And the plastic milk jug and its ring? Again, ideally a person would remove them and pitch them in the garbage. But because they are a different density of plastic than the jug, they will be separated from reusable plastic in the meltdown/reform process.  

Dan explained that the plastic in the milk jug currently is more valuable than the metal in an aluminum can mainly because of the demand for that category of plastic for use in deck building. 

The point of this article is to encourage everyone to recycle as much as possible. We should not fret so much about getting it perfect that we make the easiest choice of all and toss more into the trash. Having said this, we must continually educate ourselves about the best recycling practices, just as we keep learning of paths to better health throughout our lifetimes. 

To learn more about recycling, visit the Zero Waste Racine Facebook Group here.

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