Friday, December 14, 2007

Ask The Green Miles: Avoiding Recycling Faux Pas

My friend and fellow CRMer Brendan, who recently launched his own blog on the 2008 elections, was recently wracked with recycling interrogatories:
What say you, is it cool to recycle stuff that still has some residual food on it, like a peanut butter jar? I threw some soap and water in it and soaked the bastard for a while, but still had junk along the top.
Containers don't need to be perfectly clean before recycling, a rinse is usually fine and a soak in the case of peanut butter is good. They just need to be clean enough that they won't attract bears or George Costanza.

Peanut butter jars make the cut, but keep in mind the county only accepts narrow-necked plastic #1 or #2 containers like milk jugs, soda bottles, and laundry detergent containers. Yogurt containers, margarine tubs, etc. go in the trash. According to Stonyfield's excellent recyclable packaging explainer page, "Bottles and wide-mouth containers such as yogurt containers have different melting points, thus rendering them undesirable for recycling together. Many communities accept all HDPE plastics to avoid consumer confusion, then they landfill or incinerate all but the bottles."

A couple of days later Brendan had another question:
So on the Arlington site it says drop-off recycling centers accept the following in the way of "mixed paper," among other things:

"paperboard (such as cereal boxes, paper towel rolls, shoe boxes, beverage cartons, gift boxes, and any other single-layered paperboard not coated with wax)"

SO, the question I'm wondering if you may know is, any idea how you can tell if something's covered with wax? It seems like some Trader Joe's OJ i have is, but am not sure, thought I'd see if you'd come across this. Cereal boxes even seem like they could be, but it seems like the OJ carton's a bit waxier...
I think the county website's reference to "beverage cartons" is misleading here. The paper case that a 12-pack of Pepsi comes in is recyclable as mixed paper. A waxed carton of milk or juice is not. Basically, if it's a paper container meant to hold liquid (milk cartons, juice boxes, paper cups, some frozen food packages, etc.) it's not recyclable.

Got a question about the environment, sustainability, or livin' la vida verde? Ask The Green Miles! You can check out the question and answer archive here.
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