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Household items you should recycle, not recycle and why it's important to know the difference

Posted at 8:07 AM, Aug 06, 2018

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — It's not paper or plastic that's taking over a Scottsdale, Arizona recycling center — it's trash. 

Every day at Republic Services workers line a conveyer belt scouring for items that don't belong. But the belts are moving slower than they used to. That's because so much trash has been moving through, workers need more time to pick it out. 

"A cushion like this, not recyclable," Richard Coupland with Republic Services said. "Baby seats, not recyclable." 

But it's not just time-consuming. Coupland said when you put things that don't belong into a recycle bin, it can contaminate the other items that do belong. In return, that produces more trash. 

"Focus on your fundamental material, but most importantly that it's empty, clean and dry," he said. 

Fundamental material includes paper, plastic, aluminum and cardboard. However, if you're recycling a ketchup bottle, it must be completely empty and rinsed out. 

All the trash coming through the center is also costing more money. 

Coupland said China was at one time one of the largest buyers of recyclable material. However, the center has stopped shipping items there. 

"They've lowered their acceptable criteria from 3 percent to .5 percent," Coupland said. "That's a level that few folks are able to achieve right now without making significant changes to their operation." 

That's forcing the company to sell all it's paper, plastic, and aluminum to different markets, at a cost. 

"Those markets are not able to pay the same value for the material," Coupland said.

In return, that can cost you more when it comes to pick up fees. 

However, you can help by being conscious about what you put in your bin. 

"Many don't realize that the bottom of a pizza box which is contaminated with grease of a pizza, that's trash," Coupland said. "No one is interested in buying that. So the proper thing to do is rip the box, give me the top and throw away the bottom."