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Living Green

10 Recycling Misconceptions

By Maya Rodgers

In the U.S., recycling has been steadily increasing in popularity for decades, and with good reason! Despite the fact that it's become more widespread, there are still many misconceptions about it, and there is much more that we can do as individuals. Ten of the most common recycling misconceptions include:

  1. One Person Can't Make a Difference: If everyone thought this way, it would be true. In reality, the more people who recycle, the more the environment will benefit. One person certainly can make a difference, and it's never too late to start recycling.

  2. Cities Offer Recycling Services to Make Money: Funny enough, most U.S. cities signed contracts with recycling servicers long before it became a lucrative thing to do. They are now stuck in those contracts, and most cities barely make anything by offering it. However, whether you’re helping your local economy or helping your local environment, putting the soda bottle into the recycling bin is much better than the garbage can.

  3. Landfills Aren't That Bad: Landfills may not be the end of the world, but they aren’t optimal. Landfills can contaminate the local environment by polluting the groundwater and soil, making it toxic for humans and animals. It's much better to reduce, reuse, and recycle than it is to dump everything into your probably-not-so-local landfill.

  4. You can Recycle Anything that has the Recycling Arrow: Just because the recycling symbol is stamped on something doesn't mean it can actually be recycled. The number that's printed inside the arrows is what matters, and tells you what type of plastic you’re actually using. In fact, most recycling programs within the U.S. can only recycle number 1 and 2 plastics (though plastic shopping bags can often be recycled at your local supermarket!). Check this out for ideas on how to reuse all those #5 yogurt containers.

  5. Recycling Doesn't Help: Recycling is one of those things that tend to spread. By doing it yourself, you're likely to influence a friend, relative, or neighbor to do likewise. In this way and in many others, recycling definitely helps.

  6. Biodegradable Plastic Doesn't Need to be Recycled: Biodegradable plastic may eventually return to the earth, but it often produces gases like carbon dioxide and methane while doing so. Those gases can cause serious harm to the environment. Some biodegradable plastics are recyclable, but you may actually be better off looking for glass or recyclable plastic packaging.

  7. Landfills are Nearly Full: The problem with landfills isn't that they are nearly full or that we are running out of room for them, it’s that they are being placed farther away from large communities. Transportation costs, both financial and environmental, can add up quickly.

  8. Recycling is Hard: This may have been true years ago, but it's absolutely false now. In most areas, recycling is easier than ever. People often just have to dump their recyclables into bins, and they are picked up by trucks once a week.

  9. All Recycled Material is Used by Local Plants: Actually, up to 25% of the United States’ recycled materials is shipped over to China. The companies that sell these materials to overseas businesses make a lot of money, though according to the Washington Post, China may no longer want our recyclables.

  10. Sorting is Mandatory: Sorting is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Most recycling plants have machinery that can sort recyclables with ease, which eliminates the need for people to do it themselves.

At the end of the day, recycling is a simple, positive action that can have a very beneficial impact on the health of our planet, our communities, and each other. If you don't already recycle, start now!

Maya Rodgers is a mom, environmentalist, and an experienced pest control consultant at Terminix. She always tries to bring a reusable mug to her local coffee shop, and rinses her recyclables to both clean them and keep bugs away. To get in touch, you can find her at

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