It’s a struggle similar to many: You walk up to the recycling bin, look at the item in your hand, and ask yourself, “Is this recyclable?”
With climate change becoming more apparent in Austin, people may find themselves tossing plastic cutlery, Styrofoam, and even HEB plastic grocery bags into the recycling bin in hopes of diverting it from landfill and turning it into something useful again.
This process of throwing non-recyclable items into the recycling bin is known as “wish recycling,” and it actually does more harm than good. On this National Recycling Day, the American Statesman asked the city some of its most pressing questions about what goes into the blue trash or, for apartment dwellers, the city’s recycling bins.
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What plastics can be recycled?
Austin residents are encouraged to recycle hard plastic items, such as water and soda bottles, jars and tubs, non-battery-operated toys, buckets, baskets, and lawn chairs.
If you are recycling a plastic bottle or jug, remember to keep the cap tight when placing it in the blue trash. If you put the bottle cap separately from the bottle, the cap cannot be processed through recycling machines.
Are red solo cups recyclable?
A HomeAdvisor survey found that Austin-area residents were most curious about whether Solo red cups were recyclable.
In Austin, Solo red mugs can be recycled with the city’s regular pickup service. So after your next holiday party, feel free to toss it in the blue trash.
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Can I recycle plastic bags?
The answer to this question is no – and yes. The City of Austin does not allow plastic bags, including freezer or any type of plastic grocery bag, in its residential recycling because they often get stuck inside the machines and break them.
So, what can you do with all those plastic grocery bags once they’re out of date?
Grocery stores often accept unwanted plastic bags and recycle them in ways that don’t damage sorting machines. Austin Recycling and Reuse Center, at 2514 Business Center Drive in Southeast Austin, does the same. The center, near Ben White Boulevard and Todd Lane, accepts all plastic bags, but delivery times are required. Appointments can be easily made online at austintexas.gov/dropoffschedule.
City leaders are still encouraging residents to stop using plastic bags altogether, and are telling everyone to switch to reusable bags instead.
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What about styrofoam?
Styrofoam is recyclable, but not in the blue container again. This item needs special handling, so it must be handed in by appointment at the city recycling and reuse center. This includes styrofoam packaging, cups, and moving containers, as long as the items are clean and dry.
Styrofoam peanuts are too small to handle, so they should be reused or avoided altogether whenever possible. “We recommend replacing Styrofoam with reusable items or other materials when possible,” city officials said in a statement. “For example, you could bring a reusable container to take home leftovers instead of using the Styrofoam container provided.”
This recycling idea from the city also makes a good case for a co-statesman: “Consider reusing newspaper as packing material instead of buying packing peanuts.”
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Midterm expired. How do I recycle election banners?
Take your election signs to a recycling and reuse center to have them recycled; No appointment is necessary for these items. There will be a collection box outside for the banners only (corrugated plastic banners and the metal frames they hold are accepted).
What are common items that should be in the recycling bin but often aren’t?
“Aluminum bottles and cans can be recycled an unlimited number of times; they do not deteriorate or lose quality when recycled,” city leaders said. However, it takes thousands of years to decompose in a landfill.
“Not only is aluminum 100% recyclable, it also uses 95% less energy to recycle an old can into a new one. But Americans still throw away more than 1 million tons of aluminum every year.”
What about old batteries and electronics?
Old batteries and electronics should never be placed in a residential recycling bin, as they can easily start fires in sorting facilities.
Many electronic devices are accepted in the city Recycling and Reuse Center.
People who have electronics that are still usable can look in Austin Reuse Handbook To find a location to donate, sell, repair, or rent used items. All residents of Austin, Cedar Park, and Round Rock have access to the locations in the directory.
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Can I recycle plastic cutlery?
Every plastic fork, spoon or knife you put in your recycling bin will eventually end up in a landfill. These items are too small to be recycled, so residents should try to avoid using them.
Buying a travel-sized reusable cutlery set can help reduce the 40 billion pieces of plastic cutlery that are thrown away each year.
I don’t have manure pickups; What should I do?
Items that should only be composted include greasy pizza boxes, napkins, and other dirty papers. These items, unfortunately, have to go to the trash if composting isn’t available. But if the top of the pizza box is clean of grease and food, then it can be shredded and recycled.
For apartment dwellers who want to learn how to compost, there are several at-home, do-it-yourself compost bins available for under $100. You can then compost at home, turning food waste and dirty leafy products into fresh soil for your garden or house plants.
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