Tips to Be a Good Recycler

We all recognize the Möbius Loop. Most of us do our part to save resources from being trashed; however, during the past few years, recycling has acquired a poor reputation. When recycling was initiated in the Durham region (a neighboring community east of Toronto and my former area), recycling trucks waited at the curb while crews separated glass, paper, cans and plastics into different compartments. Many residents also presorted for the collectors. This even included separating colored glass from clear and removing the plastic window from business envelopes. 

Stephan Antoniou, then a high school student during the early 1990’s.

When commingling materials on conveyor belts became the method of separation, along with the huge increase of convenient recyclable plastics, people became confused. Public education and the development of new markets did not keep pace. Within just 4 decades, recycling bins have been overflowing with all the wrong stuff. Also, many food containers have not been sufficiently rinsed, causing marketable materials to be landfilled. When news broke that the market for glass was failing and our recyclable shipments overseas were being rejected, the result was a loss of faith in the system.

The following tips should help us get back on track:

  • Think Reduce before Recycling. Begin by avoiding the purchase of single-use plastic. In Britain, Coca-Cola is launching a campaign entitled “Round in Circles” to encourage its customers to recycle. Although this kind of education is welcomed, it takes the onus off beverage companies to return to the glass bottle deposit system.
  • Know which items your municipality accepts. Some depots prefer paper separated from cardboard. Others insist that milk cartons be placed with the paper recycling, while some regions request them to be deposited with all the other nonpaper items. Does your pickup or rural transfer station include clean flower pots or plastic film bags? In other words, read your local literature to be able to sort everything correctly and do NOT include materials that cannot be processed.
  • Rinse out all food and bottle containers. Scrape off leftover pizza crusts to compost. Greasy food boxes and messy egg cartons can be ripped up for composting.
  • Remove coil bindings from notebooks, paperclips and hard covers from old text books.
  • Do not include carbon or wax paper. Avoid adding customer receipts, as most contain chemicals.
  • Know where to recycle your E-waste, scrap metal, wood, batteries, household hazardous waste and toner cartridges, as well as the location of recycling bins for soiled textiles that are now offered in some areas.
  • Watch for special recycling days when hard plastic such as cracked patio furniture or pails are collected. Check whether all colors are acceptable. (Black usually is rejected.)
  • Shop with recycling in mind by avoiding food containers with small necks. Large mayonnaise jars that you can clean out with spatulas are preferred to those that squirt, which in turn waste food and take more effort to rinse. Although coffee pods are advertised as recyclable, they require transportation to special locations to remove the filter and the contents. Rather, use a French coffee press or coffee maker to avoid extra travel emissions.
  • For students and artists, save unwanted wine corks, springs, plastic tabs, onion bag netting,etcetera, for them to repurpose and to create artsculptures.

We are not truly recycling unless we also support and demand products that utilize nontoxic recycled content. To Reset the system, personal action is needed. “Recycling Right” is important to Reuse Resources. Reduction, however, is the primary key! 

Related Links:


Larraine writes children’s illustrated adventure stories on composting and pollinating. To view, visit: www.castlecompost.com

Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Posts


Hello there! My name is Fredrika and I’m a Sweden native living in San Diego, California with my husband James and our three children. I’m an environmental writer and have been sharing my family’s journey of living zero-waste since we shifted our lifestyle back in 2016.

Recent posts