Recycling Contamination

For community members committed to recycling everything they can, the mantra “When in Doubt, Throw it Out!” can seem counterintuitive. With the best of intentions, community members can sometimes end up placing items in their recycling carts that can’t be recycled, born out of a desire to keep as many items out of the landfill as possible. This is known as “wish-cycling,” which is the act of placing something in the recycling stream with the hope that it is recycled. 

East Lansing community members are reminded that paper plates, plastic cutlery, frozen food packages, fast food drink lids, yogurt lids and other materials are not accepted as a part of the City’s curbside recycling program, though they commonly enter the recycling stream. Plastic bags, recyclable food packaging that has not been thoroughly cleaned out and greasy pizza boxes are other common “wish-cycled” items. These non-recyclable materials can damage sorting equipment and contaminate entire batches of recycling, leaving the sorters no choice but to send the entire load to the landfill. Though “wish-cycled” to avoid putting them in the trash, these items end up there anyways, often taking additional volume of correctly recycled materials with them. Though it may seem counterintuitive, throwing these items in the trash can protect the recycling stream at large and reduce shipments to the landfill. 

So, if you still have questions after reviewing the City’s curbside recycling guidelines, remember: “When in Doubt, Throw it Out!”