On the Merits of Recycling Right

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Adam Mitchell discusses the benefits of recycling education.

Wish-cycling e.g. aspirational recycling def. “The act of putting a non-recyclable material in the recycling bin because ‘it feels like it should be recyclable.’” Example: “I’ve been putting plastic bags in my recycling because they’re made of plastic, and all plastic should be recyclable, right?”

America lacks a certain level of recycling education, even though New York City requires residential and commercial operations to recycle by law. At the federal level, there aren’t any mandates. Recycling education is not consistent across cities and states, and it can be unclear what can and cannot be recycled. This has led to Americans recycling–at best–only 35% percent of what they throw out–a far cry from the “Zero Waste” goal of reducing and recycling more than 90% of our discards.

How do we fix this?

We can increase our recycling rate by purchasing materials that are actually recyclable. Have you ever looked at the underside of a plastic bottle, and seen a number surrounded by the recycling arrows? This tells consumers what kind of plastic the container is made of, and if it can be recycled. Numbers 1 and 2 (Polyethylene terephthalate and high-density polyethylene plastics, respectively) are recyclable across the US. 3 (polyvinyl chloride aka PVC) cannot be readily recycled. 4 (low-density polyethylene) can, but only through certain drop-off zones. You can check out the whole list by clicking here. By practicing mindful purchasing habits, consumers can help reduce waste by purchasing recyclable materials, and then properly disposing of them. However, researching proper materials can take up time.

On the back end, Boro-Wide operates a recycling processing and sorting facility called Scholes Street Recycling. After filling up on recyclable materials from customers, our trucks deposit their cargo at Scholes Street. There, a team of “pickers” sort through the streams. They separate the contaminants out by hand, allowing Boro-Wide to deliver clean, recyclable materials to reprocessing plants. Every time someone recycles something they shouldn’t, our pickers are the ones that pull it back out. The current system allows for some errors and helps keep our recyclable output consistently clean of contaminants. But it also puts humans at risk if someone wishes to recycle toxic materials like rechargeable batteries or containers with household chemicals.

How do we educate customers, keep our workers safe, and encourage sustainable purchasing habits?

Enter: Recycle it Right.

Boro-Wide is committed to the safety and sustainability of our employees and our customers. To meet that goal, we have launched a new tool we’re calling: Recycle it Right. You can check it out on our main page, or by clicking this link.

Type in the name of the item you’re trying to dispose of, and the tool will provide you with instructions of how to discard it safely, and sustainably.  Instead of wish-cycling, or spending precious time researching recycling guides, you can use Recycle it Right! It is permanently embedded on our website and will improve over time with the help of users.

Recycle it Right is a dynamic tool–the more our customers use it, the better it gets. We’ve launched with over 240 commonly used materials. You can help us improve it by clicking the big red “Suggest” button after searching for material. This will allow our team to update the tool to best suit customer needs, and help you explore the pathway to Zero Waste.

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Joining forces to bring you the best in waste management

We’re excited to announce a strategic partnership between Mr. T Carting and Boro-Wide, uniting two leaders in waste management to improve your service. Our current payment systems will remain separate for ease of use, with a joint portal planned for 2024.

Your trust is our priority, and we’re dedicated to a smooth transition. For any questions, our customer support team is here to assist. Thank you for your continued support in this new chapter!

Queens Central Commercial Waste Zone starts September 3rd. Current customers will receive no service interruptions.