If you’re not sure whether something goes in the blue bin, snap a pic of yourself with the questionable item (yes, we want to see you, too). We’ll check in with a recycling expert and run the answer in the papers - so we can keep learning together.
A question from Elizabeth Doherty of Monroe, N.Y.: “Very often a container that is marked as recyclable has a lid or cap that is not marked as recyclable. Sometimes it appears to be made of the same material as the container and sometimes it does not. If there is no recycling triangle on it, I will throw it away (with a heavy heart). Am I doing the right thing?”
First off, forget the Mobius, or recycling symbol, which has become an all-but-meaningless green-washing tool.
“The plastics industry tends to place this symbol on most plastic items, much of which are not accepted in a typical curbside recycling program,” said Ermin Siljkovic, recycling coordinator at the Orange County (N.Y.) Department of Public Works. “Stick with whether the plastic item is a rigid plastic container or not to determine whether the item should be placed in one’s curbside recycling bin.
“Now to answer the question about the caps themselves: No, they are generally not recyclable in curbside recycling programs. However, it is OK if they are left on the bottle as they are removed in processing further downstream.”
As you probably know: Empty and clean those plastic containers to reduce downstream contamination.
For information, check out recyclerightny.org or download Orange County’s recycling app by typing “Recycle Coach” on Google Play or the App Store.
Keep in mind: While these answers hold true the vast majority of the time, recycling rules are infamous for their hyper-local variation, so it’s a good idea to check with your town.
Send your question and selfie to email@example.com, subject line “recycle?” along with your name and town.