Segregating rubbish is still a controversial issue. Although we have received a lot of instructions on where we should put different kinds of waste, some things are still confusing.
In most countries we have got the containers for the following kinds of waste: plastic, glass (coloured and transparent) bio-waste and mixed waste.
Recycling, however, is a really complicated process. More and more recycling companies requires appropriate segregation so that the waste is not ‘contaminated’ with other materials. What kind of materials is it mainly about? What mistakes do we make while segregating rubbish?
#1 Carrier bags (the so-called shopping bags)
Carrier bags are made of a very thin layer of plastic. The problem is that the machines recycling plastic get stuck with them. As a matter of fact I have never seen a separate container for thick and thin plastic containers. All in all, plastic bags are one of the biggest problems in terms of pollution.
If we use plastic bags to collect bio-waste, once we throw away the content the bags should end up in the mixed-waste containers as they are too dirty to go into the one for plastic.
#2 Pizza boxes
Cardboard pizza boxes are often thrown into waste paper containers. However, if the box is very dirty and/or greasy, it cannot be recycled. Throw it into the mixed-waste container. Or leave it on your compost.
The same applies to other food containers – if they are greasy, they can’t go into waste paper container. If they are coated with aluminium foil inside, that makes them go into plastic bin. Of course as long as they are clean.
#3 Wrapping papers and other accessories
Shiny wrapping paper and ribbons can’t be recycled. Thrown away into the container may contaminate the whole batch according to the standards set by the company collecting the waste.
If you don’t know whether the paper can be recycled, try to make a ball. You can make one with paper as long as it contains no plastic.
If you want to be eco-friendly, get standard paper without any extra coating.
#4 Small metal items
There are plenty of small objects made of metal, for example screws or nuts. Theoretically they can be recycled, but due to their size they might pose some problems. If we want to avoid them and recycle these sometimes tiny pieces, we’d better put them all into a bigger container, for example a tin. You can also use aluminium foil and make huge balls of the foil and the tiny pieces it will hold together.
Receipts are printed on paper, but the problem is that they contain bisphenol. It is known to cause cancer, so recycling receipts releases the substances into the environment. The best thing to do is to avoid receipts if you don’t need them.
#6 Food leftovers
Of course we don’t have to scrub the containers that are to be thrown away, but it is recommended that they shouldn’t contain any food leftovers, especially the greasy ones. It is as important as choosing the right container.
#7 Broken and damaged dishes
Plates, mugs, glasses or even mirrors can be made of a variety of components differing in terms of the melting point. That is why we shouldn’t throw away broken plates into the glass container even if it seems the most appropriate place.
Even clean diapers have to be thrown into mixed-waste containers. They are made of so many materials that they can’t be either recycled or composted.
#9 It turns out that small pieces of paper can’t be recycled, because they recycling machinery doesn’t pick them up. What we can do is to compost them. If that, however, is not possible, you can collect the small pieces in something bigger, and then throw them all at once.
#10 Hot beverage disposable cups
Paper coffee cups are coated with foil which makes them resistant to hot liquids protecting us at the same time against the heat. As a result, they can’t be recycled with paper waste.
#11 Ice-cream and other frozen products
The packaging is also coated with foil. This also refers to milk cartons. That is why we throw plenty of them into plastic waste containers, although separating the plastic is sometimes very difficult.