Recycling: What works and what doesn’t

By Brenna Luti - For the News Journal

The “Three R’s” of waste are Reducing, Reusing and Recycling, and we all need to learn what items are acceptable and unacceptable to our local recycling system.

Items that aren’t accepted by recycling facilities end up in landfills, and despite our best intentions, the system is delicate and requires specific levels of cleaning and sorting on the individuals’ part.

Plastic is a big problem. There is some confusion about which types of plastic can be recycled and which can’t. Even when people do get it right, there is a chance that those materials may not be disposed of correctly.

Some items are rejected because they have specific kinds of plastic in their design (identified by a number system), while others have food debris on them.

Recycling companies list acceptable and unacceptable items on their websites and on some recycling bins. There are guidelines to help clear up any confusion anyone has about which items are recyclable, and which are not.

You can find a complete list of acceptable and unacceptable items for Wilmington at .

“An item that we see often in the bins which is not accepted are plastic bags … They tend to clog up the wheels of the machinery,” according to a representative from Rumpke.

Plastic bags are currently accepted by some grocery stores, such as Walmart and Kroger. This is also an opportunity to Reduce and Reuse – utilizing reusable shopping bags or paper bags.

Other items which are not recyclable in municipal recycling bins include lithium-ion batteries, textiles, needles, and all forms of scrap metal. Lithium-ion batteries are recyclable through certified battery electronics recyclers that accept them.

Places like Goodwill will take donations of clothes and household items.

Needles and other used sharp items can be safely disposed in a sharps disposal container immediately after use. There are community guidelines to help dispose of used Sharps disposal containers.

People can take scrap metal to a scrap metal recycler when certain conditions are met.

Materials like paper, plastic bottles, jugs, glass bottles and jars, cartons, and metals are recyclable in municipal recycling bins. Paper materials include cardboard, mixed office paper, and pizza boxes (as long as there is no grease or food debris) are also acceptable.

Plastic bottles and jugs are recyclable so long as they are emptied, crushed, and have had their caps reattached.

Glass bottles and jars in all colors are also recyclable. Cartons are recyclable so long as the plastic caps and straws are separated from them.

Metals like steel cans and empty aerosol cans with their lids and tips put aside are recyclable.

Other ways to help

Composting can be a good solution for kitchen scraps like vegetable peelings and fruit waste. This method can create fertilizer by breaking down organic matter.

Other compostable items include cardboard egg boxes and crumpled paper. Composting is an acceptable alternative to putting organic waste in the trashcan. I have had great success lessening my trash output through composting.

“Composting is another way to recycle,” said Marlaina Leppert-Wahl, associate professor of political science at Wilmington College. “You can compost foods, eggshells, and organic things that otherwise end up at the bottom of a trash can.”

Reducing the amount of waste being generated goes a long way. This can be a little difficult, considering most products now contain plastic.

Cigarette butts make up a large portion of plastic waste found in the environment. The filters contain tiny plastic fibers.

Food wrappers, plastic bottles, plastic bottle caps, plastic grocery bags, plastic straws, and stirrers also make up a good portion of plastic waste.

Brenna Luti is an intern at Wilmington College.

By Brenna Luti

For the News Journal