Earth Day 2018: Focus on What CAN Be Recycled

Earth Day 2018: Focus on What CAN Be Recycled

  • This article, contributed by Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland, is part of a 15-part series of tips on how to make a positive environmental impact in Kane County in preparation for Earth Day on April 22nd. 

Tip #8: Recycle Right and Minimize Waste

Earth Day Focus: Why Recycling Correctly and Minimizing Waste is More Important Now Than Ever (Plus a Chance to Win-a-Bin!)

We live in a world of products. What are these products made out of? Where do those materials come from?

The Earth!

Everything that we have in our possession is made of our planet’s resources. Everything was either mined from the earth or grown from it.

Fossilized plants (oil, coal) fuel our cars and electronic devices. Petroleum is made into a plethora of plastic items. Glass is made from sand, soda ash and lime. Forests are felled for our paper supply!

While all metals are highly recyclable, certain paper products and plastics are more problematic.


Things like frozen food boxes, or receipts (made of heat-sensitive paper), plastic coated to-go cups, napkins, paper towels, tissues, pizza boxes and paper plates (which are usually food soiled) are not recyclable, but we get a lot of them in the bins.


More and more things are being made of or packaged in some variety of plastic. The bad news is that most of these plastics are not recyclable.

Because everyone wants to do the right thing and recycle, many of these non-recyclable papers and plastics end up in the recycling carts.

Market Restrictions Tougher

I want to set the record straight: It is not that we can recycle less than we used to be able to recycle. It is that there are a lot more material goods now than ever before, and many of them are not and have not ever been acceptable in the recycling carts.

For the sustainability of the recycling industry as a whole, we need to apply ourselves to recycling all of the things that CAN be recycled and to be careful not to include those things that are NOT recyclable!

China has historically been the recipient for U.S. recyclables and is a huge sector of that market — especially markets for recycled plastic and paper.

But China has been tightening its regulations for the last several years, and in 2018, leaders there have passed legislation greatly restricting the amount of allowable contamination (how much non-recyclable material is in the mix) of the American recyclable materials. This directly affects the health and longevity of the recycling industry here in the U.S.

The Waste Management media room published this article on April 3, which offers a good overview of this issue.

Sorting facilities will have to work harder to sort out the trash, and we will have to do our part to keep it out of our curbside carts!

Doing Our Part

Scroll down to see larger image.

As engaged and caring residents we have to educate ourselves on many things, one of which is how to recycle right! Please use the new Guidelines Poster or the in-depth guidelines on the Kane County Recycles webpage.

Minimizing Waste

Another way we can have an impact is by looking at how we can each individually reduce our waste. It starts with awareness which can then be applied to your shopping habits, so you can reduce how often you are buying things that will end up as garbage. I’ve talked about this before!

Last September in Recycling Tips we asked for ideas from you on how to reduce waste, and we published some of the great ideas here. I again talked about minimizing waste in the recent Not Easy Being Green – Part 2 article.

Waste Minimization Challenge — Win a Bin

Commit to waste minimization in honor of Earth Day and get a chance to win-a-bin!

How? Pick one or more of the ideas in the articles linked above and/or choose your own and make a list for the fridge to remind you what your Waste Reduction Commitments will be for 2018.

Also, email your list to me to get a chance to win a desk side recycling container. Include your full name and phone number along with your list of commitments and submit via email ( to go in the drawing to win–a-bin!

Read the ‘Countdown to Earth Day’ Series!