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Recycling 101: Are you doing it right?

Clare Roth

Recycling can be a tricky process - whether you leave materials curbside or deposit them at a drop-site, it's often hard to know exactly what can or can't be recycled.

On this Talk of Iowa "short," Joe Hummel of City Carton and Theresa Kurtz of the Iowa Recycling Association share how recycling really works, answer common questions, and alleviate recycling myths.

DO -

Clean out your glass and plastic bottles as much as you can.

  • Try and rinse things out right away, to avoid clogging recycling plant machines and to keep the facility from stinking like old garbage. (Hey, keeps your recycling bin clean too!)

Check whether that plastic container is recyclable.

  • There are up to 60,000 different blends of plastic and many have to be recycled in different ways.

Recycle your milk jugs.

  • They are the most in-demand recyclables right now, since that type of plastic is more “pure,” meaning no color is added. Once color is added to plastic, it will never come out.

You actually can recycle your pizza boxes.

  • Just make sure there is no food and not too much grease on the box.
Credit Clare Roth


Don’t continue the myth that recycling actually takes more resources than it’s worth.

  • It takes less energy (measured in BTUs - "British Thermal Unit") to produce a product from one ton of recyclables than it does to create the product from virgin material.
  • Plus, the carbon footprint will be less. Recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and it keeps garbage from clogging landfills and waterways.

Don’t blindly recycle food wrappers, wax or plastic coated cups, or Styrofoam.

  • Check whether your facility has the capability to recycle these products. While most don’t, technologies are being developed to process things like Styrofoam in a cost effective manner.

Don’t throw out batteries and cell phones.