Oops! I threw it in the wrong bin!
Did you ever wonder what happened to the greasy pizza box that was accidentally thrown in the blue recycling bin? Didn’t it make to the recycling center?
You were really tempted this morning to put that half-eaten yogurt in the recycling bin by the sidewalk. It was almost empty anyway, right?
No matter how much you want to help with recycling, we advise you to think twice before throwing that yogurt away. Here’s why:
One of the key challenges that companies and individuals at various levels have been grappling with is recycling contamination.
Recycling contamination occurs when
- the wrong material is placed in a specific type of recycling bin or simply there’s a mix of materials in one type of bin.
- objects are not properly thrown away.
In the two cases above, the culprit is food waste. Containers and boxes that have been used to hold food are usually designated for landfill, unless the food waste in these containers have been thoroughly cleaned out.
Another contaminant to be aware of is plastic bags. Check that the recycling bin actually accepts plastic bags before throwing them away.
Items like shrink wrap, Ziploc bags, etc. are not all supposed to be placed in recycling bins⎯it depends on the specific recycling program in your community. For Shanghai residents, plastic bags are thrown in the residual waste (gray) bins.
The other plastic item that can be a contaminant is plastic bottles, along with other various carton types. Plastic containers are generally marked by a triangular symbol of chasing arrows with a number in the middle to indicate what type of plastic has been used to make this item.
While various plastic bottles and containers make it to the sorting center, at that point some may get rejected. This decision is made by the local sorting and recycling company. Generally, #1 and #2 are the most accepted types for recycling, with the plastic types being polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE or PE-HD) respectively. Plastic bottles are contaminants in the sense that putting the wrong plastic types in the recycling bin may slow down recycling processes.
当各种各样的塑料瓶和容器到达分拣中心，有些时候可能会被拒收。 该决定由当地的分类和回收公司做出。 通常，＃1和＃2是回收率最高的类型，塑料类型分别是聚对苯二甲酸乙二醇酯（PET）和高密度聚乙烯（HDPE或PE-HD）。 塑料瓶在某种意义上说是污染物，因为将错误的塑料类型放入回收箱可能会减慢回收过程。
In Shanghai, the sorting guidelines allow you to throw most plastic bottles in the blue recycling bin, but whether they make it through the sorting process depends on the local sorting center. Remember to empty out and give the items a good rinse before discarding!
If the plastic bottle previously contained hazardous waste, placing it in the hazardous waste bin would be safer. When in doubt, we suggest also reaching out to your local trash sorter/collector.
For glass bottles like wine or beer bottles, the glass part can be placed in the blue recycling bin after a good rinse. Although metal caps are not known to be readily recyclable, they can be placed in recycling bins in Shanghai. It’s best to put them together with or inside another metal container so they don’t get lost during the ride to the sorting center.
对于葡萄酒或啤酒瓶这样的玻璃瓶，可以将玻璃冲洗干净后放入可回收垃圾箱。 尽管金属盖尚不容易回收，但可以将其放在上海的回收箱中。 最好将它们与另一个金属容器放在一起或放在另一个金属容器中，以免在运往分拣中心的过程中混乱。
Other types of contaminants include frozen food containers, bio-hazardous waste (e.g. human fluid), hazardous waste (e.g. paint, pesticides), loose shredded paper and brightly colored paper.
Actual food waste goes into the “wet” trash (brown) bins in Shanghai, while hazardous waste is designated for the red bin. Other non-recyclable solid waste can be placed in the residual waste (gray) bin.
Why is trash sorting and recycling so important?
It does seem a little unnecessary to go through so much trouble. In the end, a lot of these items can be recycled anyway, and wouldn’t it be better to attempt to recycle than not?
There are a few things to consider that may result from recycling contamination.
One is that with too much mixing of trash, at a certain point the recycling process is not possible anymore. The cost involved in extracting the right recyclable materials from the mix of materials is too high, so therefore some recycling providers would rather choose to let the whole lot go to landfill instead.
Those plastic bags that slip into recycling bins? They get snagged in the machinery and cause a lot of trouble for workers to remove the bags. In addition, some items aren’t supposed to go through the machine and cause the machine to break down. The market value of the materials being recycled is also degraded when there is contamination present. And we also have to recognize that this whole recycling process is a business with real people working in the centers. Hazardous and bio-hazardous waste can be dangerous to the workers who are exposed to the trash.
While all this information may seem daunting, don’t give up yet!
A woman throws at a waste sorting site in Shanghai. Residents face penalties for using the wrong bins. Photograph: Aly Song/Reuters
Certain things that you can do to contribute to the recycling effort are: communicate, concentrate and clean. Help spread more awareness of what recycling contamination is. Let your friends know the next time you finish a box of pizza together. Concentrate on what you are throwing away, remember that not all recyclables go in the same bin! Once you have determined that you can recycle the bottle or container in your hand, don’t forget to give it a little rinse. Helping get rid of the food waste inside goes a long way in making sure the item doesn’t end up in a landfill.
您可以为回收工作做出贡献的是：传播信息、关注垃圾分类以及清洁。 帮助传播更多有关再循环污染的知识。 下次一起扔批泡面盒时让你的朋友知道这个信息。 关注您要扔掉的东西，请记住，并非所有可回收物品都应放在同一个垃圾箱中！ 确定可以手中的瓶子或容器是可回收垃圾时，请不要忘记冲洗一下。 帮助消除内部的食物浪费在确保食品不会被填埋方面大有帮助。
Be a Hero!
Still unclear about all these trash sorting guidelines? Feiy and Zer’0 Waste Shanghai teamed up recently to release “Trash Heroes”, a board game which helps players understand about trash sorting in a more fun and exciting way.
还不知道用哪个垃圾分类指南吗？ Feiy和Zer’0 Waste Shanghai最近联手发行了一款棋盘游戏“垃圾分类英雄"，可帮助玩家以更有趣和令人兴奋的方式了解垃圾分类。
Grab some of your friends or colleagues to play and become better “Trash Heroes”!
More info about “Trash Heroes”