6 More Things You THINK You Can Recycle — But Can't

6 More Things You THINK You Can Recycle — But Can’t

  • This article is part of a series of recycling tips from Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland. Got a question or idea for a recycling tip? Contact Jarland at 630-208-3841 or recycle@countyofkane.org.

Two weeks ago, Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland said there are 12 items that people often think they can put in their recycling bins but really shouldn’t — stuff that’s either trash or can be recycled at drop-offs but not in your curbside cart! They are:

  1. Plastic bags
  2. Cups
  3. Cups Lids
  4. Straws
  5. Plastic utensils
  6. Styrofoam
  7. Chip bags
  8. Candy wrappers
  9. Napkins
  10. Paper towels
  11. Tissue
  12. Paper plates

Last time, we took a close look at the first six items on the list. Here are six MORE things you think you can drop in your recycling bin, but shouldn’t.

1. Chip Bags

Ninety-nine percent of the packaging that comes wrapped around snack foods is NOT recyclable.

The plastic foil wrappers and chip bags are not plastic or foil — another example of a “monstrous hybrid” in the words of Michael Braungart and William McDonough. They are NOT recyclable!

Better option: Consider shifting your snack habits to foods that come without packaging, like fruit and bulk nuts that you can put in your own container. Healthier for you and the planet!

2. Candy Wrappers

Candy wrappers are usually made up of mixed materials, making the recovery of useful materials difficult and expensive. They tend to gum up local recycling centers, so they shouldn’t go into your bin.

Better option: Eco-conscious folks have thought of creative ways to repurpose candy wrappers. A quick search on the Internet for items made out of candy wrappers will generate page after page of handbags, wallets and even candy-wrapper jewelry.

3. Napkins

It is very common to find napkins, paper towels, tissues and tissue paper in the recycling. Makes sense; they ARE paper, right? The thing is, they are not recyclable because the woody fibers that make up these soft products are very fine and short and are not any longer recyclable.

Office paper has long strong fibers allowing it to be recycled up to 10 times as new paper. Then you have newspaper and paper board (think paper towel rolls, tissue boxes, and cereal boxes) at the next level down, where the fibers are smaller but still strong enough to recycle again a time or two. But by the time you get to tissue paper and napkins, those little fibers are on their last legs and can be either composted if you have that option or otherwise thrown in the trash.

So, don’t throw napkins — even clean ones — in your recycling bin.

Better option: Use cloth napkins, wash and reuse!

4. Paper Towels

Paper-based products that have been in touch with food are not suitable for recycling; They’ve been contaminated.

But even clean paper towels shouldn’t go in your bin.

What’s the alternative? Using fewer paper products in general is a good first step — using kitchen towels instead of paper products can help. For kitchen spills you can keep a stock of cotton rags (old T-shirts cut into squares) in the drawer for such emergencies. Then wash and reuse.

5. Tissue

“Aaaaaaa-choo!”

Do you really want to recycle that tissue? I didn’t think so.

Yet we see them in the recycle bins from time to time. The logic is the same as above: The fiber isn’t strong enough to recycle.

Better option: Try a handkerchief! Or compost them along with the other tissue type papers listed above, in your backyard compost bin!

6. Paper Plates

I’ll give you three guesses why they are NOT recyclable.

Please email recycle@countyofkane.org with the correct answer to go in a drawing to win a desk-side recycling container. Include your name, email address and phone number please. The drawing will be done on June 30, and the winner announced and notified the week of July 3!

Read the ‘Recycling Tips’ Series!