Column: Recycling do’s and don’ts 


Commentary by Sue Maki

In a previous column I shared what is going on in the world of the recycling markets. This week, I would like to share what we all can do, no matter who our recycling contractor is, to ensure our recyclables are indeed recycled.

No Plastic Bags – This is a recent change as the industry has been battling clogged sorting equipment caused by loose plastic bags. What can you do instead? Return those plastic bags to your local grocer or big-box retailer. Most of them have plastic bag recycling receptacles that go to specialized facilities. Better yet, when you shop, get into the habit of bringing your own reusable bags instead.

Don’t use plastic bags to recycle – Another common issue is how to toss out your recyclables. Do not put recycling in a plastic bag because these filled bags are not opened during the recycling process. Instead, they are tossed in the trash pile, headed to the landfill, unopened. Please keep recyclables loose.

Keep recyclables clean and dry – Food-soiled or wet recycling tends to contaminate the entire load, and therefore is not recycled and sent to the landfill. While you do not have to scour your container, you should rinse them out and make sure they are empty. And that peanut butter jar that has leftover peanut butter? Throw it out. The energy used to clean that jar is more than the energy savings of recycling it. And that pizza box with grease spots? Throw it out, too.

Wishful recycling – This is a common issue that presents itself in almost every load. The garden hose, Styrofoam, window glass, cookware, batteries, landscape waste, etc. All these things and more are commonly put in recycling but they are not processed through the standard comingled recycling stream. If you want to be certain of an item’s acceptability in your recycling program, refer to your recycling contractor’s website. And for the Hamilton County recycling compactors? That information is posted on the County Household Hazardous Waste webpage. Visit

Here is the bottom line: “When in doubt, throw it out!”

Sue Maki is manager of the City of Carmel’s trash and recycling program and president of the Hamilton County Solid Waste Board, which oversees community recycling compactors in Noblesville.

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