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Recycled Confusion

There are three dominant groups in today’s residential and business recycling efforts.  Two of them are hurting recycling more than they realize.  The three groups are:

  1. Not Worth The Time (aka The Lazy/Apathetic)
  2. Everything Goes (aka The Uninformed)
  3. Compliant (aka The Informed)

The first group just doesn’t care about recycling, sees it as a waste of time, or an inconvenience to their schedule/routine.  Everything in their office or household goes into the trash for landfills.  Aluminum cans, plastic jugs, and bottles, paper, grease, old batteries, food scraps, and everything else is nothing but trash.  However, it’s not!   Their disregard or apathy toward recycling means a lot of waste ends up in landfills that could be recycled.  This group reasons it’s too difficult or hard to figure what can and cannot be recycled so they choose the path of least resistance. 


As a result of their carelessness, many toxic and hazardous things end up in landfills that could be recycled.   Old batteries that contain acid, are corrosive and affect groundwater can take up to 100 years to decompose.  Cooking oils, or grease, printer cartridges, plastic bags/bottles, clothing, etc. Cardboard boxes and newspapers can take over two months to breakdown can be easily recycled into usable paper products.  Glass jars take up to one million years and a disposable diaper 450 years to decompose.  And then you have things like styrofoam and aluminum foil that never does biodegrade.  When they throw an old pair of leather shoes into the trash instead of donating them it will take as much as 40 years for them to decompose.


The second group where “everything goes” into recycling affects recycling operations by clogging the funneling and separation processes with things that aren’t recyclable.  

Many of our municipal/public and private recycling centers are overwhelmed by the amount of waste that ends up in their facilities requiring more precious time from their staff to weed out the trash v.s. legitimate recyclables.    Municipal and private recycling centers have experienced an overload in waste in recent years by people who think they are helping the environment, but are actually hurting it.  Other recycling centers have closed because of the sheer amount of waste and the lack of labor and budget to separate it.   This group is hurting the recycling industry because they are contaminating the recycling stream with waste.   When they attempt to recycle a cardboard box and dump their empty plastic mayonnaise bottle in the same bin the grease and waste from that product can render the cardboard unfit for recycling.  This group does not separate their recyclables. 

The third group is the compliant group.  They read labels on products, look for resin numbers (the triangle with the number on the bottom of your laundry detergent, etc.), and they are familiar with local recycling practices and standards because they vary from city to city and state to state.  The compliant group reads labels on products and recycling bins.   They understand the difference between E-waste and regular waste.  The compliant person is much more likely to take their old computer monitor to a place where they collect such goods and refurbish them, or directly to the e-waste bin at their local recycling center.  The compliant group quit using plastic bags for groceries a long time ago and provide their own canvas reusable shopping bags.  This is why they don’t complain when they visit coastal communities that have strict laws against plastic bags to protect their beaches and the ocean.  Their reusable bags are already in the trunk.

Recycling is confusing to the average consumer and business owner.  However, there are plenty of resources available to help.  For consumers and the general public, a great place to start is the EPA.  You can go to https://www.epa.gov/recycle and find all kinds of helpful information about recycling.  Every person can begin to recycle simply by being informed and developing your own personal recycle/waste collection plan.

Businesses (large and small) have professional resources to choose from in regard to managing their waste stream and forming a cogent, intentional plan.   Environmental service companies and consultants can help you analyze your waste and recycle stream saving time and money while ensuring you are compliant with local, state, and federal laws pertaining to waste products.

At Pinnacle Environmental Services, Inc., we are committed to helping our customers redirect their waste stream in ways that generate clean, renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gases.  Zero Landfill is our philosophy and the ultimate strategy in our minds with every Waste Analysis Study we perform.  

Our goal is to eliminate waste, not just manage it. We recognize there isn’t a single model that will fit the needs of our diverse customer base. Therefore, we design custom plans that fit the exact needs of every client. So contact us—give us the opportunity to develop a plan for you. You’ll enjoy the comfortable satisfaction in knowing Pinnacle Environmental Services, Inc.  Contact us today.

Mike Watts, President

Pinnacle Environmental Services, Inc.


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