Why did the guidelines change for curbside recycling?
Curbside recycling is facing a contamination crisis. Contamination is caused when people place materials in the recycling bin that do not belong. Recycling processors have a difficult time sorting out the trash, which makes its way into the sorted/baled material that is sold to market. For a long time, China was the largest buyer of this material from the U.S. And because of increasing contamination levels, China made the decision to stop importing this material. This left the U.S. with an overabundance of recyclable commodities (re: baled material) with a lot of trash mixed in.
To address the contamination issue and ensure curbside recycling is sustainable, we went “back to the basics” with four material types that have a strong domestic market—meaning, there is a demand for this material by manufacturers in the U.S. We call these materials the “Big 3” and include: 1) corrugated cardboard (like shipping and packing boxes), 2) metal food and beverage cans, 3) plastic bottles and jugs with a neck.
Why are some materials allowed in the recycling bin, while others go to a drop-off location?
If something has the recycling symbol on it, does that mean it can go in my bin?
Follow the Big 3 guidelines only when deciding whether something should be placed in your curbside bin. You can use the chasing arrows symbol as a guide when buying materials, as you look for items that include recycled content in the product.