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Recycling 101

Recycling 101

Molly Mann | Divine Caroline

February 16, 2011

A friend was telling me about a recent trip to Germany, where she was daunted by the strict and varied recycling rules there. Apparently, they have a host of different color-coded bins (brown, blue, yellow, and gray) for sorting waste recyclables. That really puts me to shame, since I have trouble deciding between recycling, compost, and trash!

Since hearing about Germany’s eco-diligence, I’ve decided that it’s time to brush up on my recycling and composting routine and learn to avoid common mistakes.

As of 2005, the last time the U.S. General Accounting Office collected statistics, the recycling rate is 32 percent, up from 10 percent in 1980. This is good news, but not good enough, since municipal solid waste has also grown by 60 percent in the same amount of time. The numbers work out to an approximate 246 million ton yearly increase in landfill waste.

Most people understand that they’re supposed to recycle, but many—I plead guilty as charged!—have forgotten or never quite understood how. Sure, putting your empty water bottle in the plastics bin is a no-brainer, but what about that paper plate with pizza grease on it, or the packaging from your latest purchase?

Different municipalities have slightly different recycling rules, so you should check with your local town or county for specifics, but here are some basics for what to throw where.

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