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    Posted on Jul 1, 2018

    How The Heck Do I Start Recycling Correctly?

    I wasn't too familiar on what can and can't be recycled, so I found out what we all should be doing.

    Photka / Getty Images

    Recycling seems like it should be a fairly straightforward way to help the earth, but it can get complicated when you have to stop and ask yourself, "Wait, can I recycle this?" So BuzzFeed spoke to Erin Poliz with the Seachange Agency in order to break it down.

    The Seachange Agency's mission is helping endangered sea animals and educating people about single-use plastics and cleaning up trash from oceans.

    OK, so, what CAN go in our recycling bins?

    Earth Easy / Via learn.eartheasy.com

    "Earth911.com is a good resource to find out what’s recyclable in your area," Erin Poliz told BuzzFeed. "Recyclables will be labeled with numbers 1 through 7. In Los Angeles, for example, mostly 1 through 7 are recyclable. However, most cities do not have a system for recycling Styrofoam."

    How do I know if I CAN'T recycle something?

    Drogatnev / Getty Images

    "Everything that can be recycled has a triangle, and in the triangle is a number. The numbers tell you what can be recycled. There are a few things you can keep in mind that cannot be recycled. Starbucks lids, for example, are able to go in the bin, but because Starbucks cups have a polyethylene plastic coating, they cannot be recycled. Plastic bags from grocery stores have no value of being recycled, so it's better to reuse them if you can. Also, straws cannot be recycled. It takes over two hundred years for one straw to decompose in a landfill. Same with the plastic utensils — you won't be able to recycle them."

    Plastics seem a little complicated, so let's break it down even further.

    Nikom1234 / Getty Images

    "The less plastic you can use, the better," Poliz said. "Of all the plastic we create, 5% we use, 50% ends up in the landfill, and 40% is lost in the environment and at sea."

    Plastic water bottles and soda bottles:

    Yanik88 / Getty Images

    "In some cases, you'll need to put the lid on any bottle with a cap in order for it to be recycled," Poliz said.

    However, it can be a different situation depending on your area. Some recycling programs will want you to leave them on, and some will ask you to separate them. It's worth checking your area through iwanttoberecycled.org OR a quick Google search ("recycling guide + your zip code") to determine what your recycling program prefers in order to do your part to help the environment. This website offers a guide of a few major cities in the United States.

    Plastic bags:

    Markara / Getty Images

    For the most part, it's better to just reuse your plastic bags instead of clogging up landfills with them. However — depending on your area — plastic bags with #2 or #4 can be recycled. Many recycling centers will want you to collect these bags in one big bag (between one hundred or so) before tossing them in the recycle bin.

    "The easier thing to do decrease the use of plastic by bringing your own grocery bags to the store," Poliz said. "More than 1 million plastic bags are used every minute, which, if tied together, is enough to circle the world 4,200 times."

    You can find a ton of reusable items under $20 from Amazon here.

    Things that come packaged in plastic:

    Getty Images

    So, according to Earth 911, plastic films are typically a #2 or #4 plastic, which means some may be recyclable in your area. Again, check with your city by finding your recycling guide. For the most part, plastic surrounding bread loaves, plastic from paper towel, toilet paper, diapers, and dry cleaning bags may be able to be recycled. But here's something important to note: If a plastic has been tainted with food (cling wrap, plastic from frozen meals, etc.) YOU CANNOT RECYCLE IT.

    And again, to save you the headache of figuring it out, you can find reusable containers to store food in — like these or these!

    Plastic bathroom products:

    Woolzian / Getty Images

    Make sure to check the recycling number on your bathroom product, whether that be a shampoo/conditioner container, tissue boxes, mouthwash, or empty lotion container. Rinse the container before recycling. Containers should be numbered 1 or 2. Toothbrushes and toothpaste bottles are rarely accepted for recycling, but you can easily purchase biodegradable non-plastic, bamboo toothbrushes from Amazon.

    Alternatively, you can ditch using plastic shower products completely by purchasing no-waste beauty products, like these Lush shampoo bars or these Ethique shampoo bars. You can find a good list of eco-friendly beauty products here.

    Frozen food boxes:

    Jamesmcq24 / Getty Images

    A lot of people assume frozen food boxes are good to toss in the recycling bin because they're cardboard, right? Wrong. Kind of like those Starbucks cups, most frozen food boxes have a plastic coating sprayed on them to protect them from condensation.

    Right about now you're probably thinking, "Holy shit, I use so much plastic. How do I cut back?"

    Mcininch / Getty Images

    "China used to buy our plastics, but they are no longer purchasing international plastics. We've created too much. There is more of a supply than demand, and we don’t have anywhere to send plastics," Poliz said. "One in three recycle trucks are turned away because they don’t have anymore space for them, so they're sent directly to a landfill. The best way for you help is make small changes."

    What does that mean, exactly? Here's some easy tips Erin passed along:

    * Purchase a reusable water bottle instead of bulk plastic ones.

    * Bring your own reusable bags to the grocery store.

    * And bring your own reusable produce bags, too!

    * "No straw, please!" If you love using straws, consider purchasing a reusable one.

    * Stop using plastic utensils and start using either bamboo utensils (they're biodegradable!) or reusable utensils.

    * Forgo using lids when you grab a fountain drink.

    But maybe you're like, "Hey, I do all that already!" Here are some ways to take going green to the NEXT level.

    6 Shore Road / Via 6shoreroad.com, Andrei Dragomir / Getty Images

    * Make some serious changes to your kitchen by considering using these 13 eco friendly products.

    * Consider investing in these reusable products you will NEVER have to throw away, like wool dryer balls and reusable baby food pouches.

    * Try buying your pasta and grains in bulk using mason jars.

    * Consider supporting sustainable fashion. Yes, it costs more, but it's also way more eco-friendly than fast fashion. Brands like 6 Shore Road and Kindred Black are good examples.

    * Start composting with your own compost bin!

    To end on a not-so-overwhelming note, I'm going to leave you with two simple things. First, find out what you can and can't recycle in your area HERE. And second, check out/memorize the EPA's "Top 10 Bin" to brush up on your recycling basics.

    EPA / Via epa.gov

    Happy recycling!

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