Jennifer Jarland: 5 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Recycling

Jennifer Jarland: 5 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Recycling

  • Editor’s Note: This article was written by Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland. Got a question or idea for a recycling tip? Contact Jennifer Jarland at 630-208-3841 or

During the many events Kane County Recycles does in the course of a year, I get a lot of very specific questions about what products to put in the recycling bin — and that’s a good thing! But sometimes I wonder whether we’re not seeing the forest for the trees.

The following is a quick-and-easy look at the bigger picture: the five things I wish everybody knew about recycling.

No. 1: Recycling is important, but it is not the most important action.

ReThinking, Reducing, Reusing, Repairing, Repurposing, and Refusing are some of the personal efforts that come into play before you even get to Recycling.

Imagine the impact if we all ReThink our purchases, Reduce our waste, and Refuse single-use plastics like utensils, straws, and bags.

And with all those R’s, there’s also a C: Composting! Visit the Kane County Recycles webpages and scroll down to “Compost & Yard Waste” for a wealth of information on that topic.

No. 2: Recycling Right is the key to making a difference.

Please strictly follow the guidelines for what IS recyclable in your curbside cart, and do not “wish-cycle”.

  • Tip your recyclable materials into the bin loose and not in a bag.
  • Plastic bags are not allowed in your recycling cart. Period.
  • Additionally, many of the items you can’t put in the cart ARE recyclable at drop-off locations. See the Kane County Recycles A-Z list of recycling and reuse opportunities to find out where to recycle just about everything.

No. 3: Forget the number! Recycle plastic bottles, tubs, jugs, and jars only.

Let me start by saying that the chasing arrows triangle with the number in it DOES NOT mean that the plastic object is recyclable!

My best advice is to forget the numbers which simply indicate resin type, and instead look to the shape for your guidance on which plastic containers ARE recyclable.

That’s right: It has to be a container! If it is a plastic BOTTLE, TUB (including clamshell shaped containers), JUG or JAR then recycle it. If it is any other shape do not recycle it! NO plastic utensils, cups, plates, lids, diapers, toys, lawn furniture, car bumpers, basket balls, hoses… you get the picture.

For more, click here. Also, look for products with the How2Recycle label that offers guidance on recycling the different elements of packaging.

No. 4: Flatten your boxes!

All boxes need to be flattened before you put them in the recycling cart — and I don’t mean just stomped on and smashed into a lumpy shape.

First, empty and flatten all boxes, from tissue and cereal boxes (made of paperboard) to large delivery boxes (made of corrugated cardboard). Cut the tape, flatten and fold into a size that fits in the cart.

If they are too big, cut them down with a box cutter. Place them neatly in the cart.

Do not jam them in so that when the truck tips the cart they will slide out smoothly.

For more info click here.

No. 5: Recycle electronics, clothing and books at the Kane County Recycling Centers!

Kane County has two recycling centers and is adding a third soon.

They’re open during the week, and they have basically the same rules as recycling during our weekend events. So why not skip the crowds and visit our recycle sites?!

Check out locations, hours, accepted items, and other details here.

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