Recycling Myths Busted

recycling-symbolWhat does the recycling symbol represent?

Hint: “reduce, reuse, recycle” is an incorrect answer!

We’ll provide the answer in a minute, but in the meantime, here are some more recycling myths.

Did you know… 

  • Commingled and single stream recycling mean the same thing.
    Watch this video that explains the high tech separation process employed by material recovery facilities.
  • Plastic bags should be taken to retail establishments for recycling.
    That includes your bread bag, dry cleaning bag, and grocery bags.
  • The cap of a plastic bottle is just as recyclable as the bottle
  • Rechargeable batteries contain more chemicals than the traditional alkaline batteries. 
    But, they are considered better for the environment because they last longer and are recyclable.

3 Recycling Myths Explained

Here are three recycling myths, along with some interesting facts: 
1. Any plastic product that has a number within the chasing arrows is recyclable.
Answer:  False
The code on a plastic product does not mean that material is necessarily recyclable in your community or has been recycled. It just identifies the type of plastic resin. 
2. Material in a landfill completely decomposes.
Answer: False
Landfills are designed to eliminate the 3 key ingredients for decomposition: light, air and water. A compost pile which promotes light, air and water increases decomposition of material.
3. Recycling is part of the global economy and is affected by supply and demand.
Answer:  True
Recycling is an excellent example of how the global economy works. As demand increases, cost increases because supply is scare. Up until October 2008 the majority of our recyclable material was going to China. They would make a new product out of our recycled material, send it back to the U.S., and we would buy it in the form of toys, boxes, electronic equipment, etc. When the U.S. economy got tight, we purchased fewer consumer goods. So China created less product. They decreased the amount of recycled content they purchased from us. This is why the recycling cycle is a cycle! The recycling markets have rebounded. Some commodities are now paying for recyclable material at rates higher than before 2008. 
Many of these concepts are covered in Project Learning Tree’s secondary module, Municipal Solid Waste.

Take Action, and Recycle! 

If your school wants to step up your recycling, get some ideas from the PLT GreenSchools Waste and Recycling Investigation.  If you want a challenge, consider competing in a race with other schools to collect the most recyclables.  The Recycle-Bowl is a free competition and benchmarking tool for K-12 school recycling programs that promotes waste reduction activities. 

Oh, and here’s that answer to “What does the recycling symbol represent?”
Answer: 1. Collect recyclables. 2. Process them into a new product.  3. Buy products with recycled content.

Vanessa Bullwinkle

Vanessa Bullwinkle

Vanessa Bullwinkle is Director of Communications & Marketing for Project Learning Tree.

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