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Week 3: 2020 Sustainability Challenge- Understanding What You Can Recycle

Guest Post By Kristen Vidmar, DLDT Associate Board Member

Why Take This Challenge?

Do you often find recycling confusing? You are not the only one! It is difficult to know what is accepted or not because the accepted materials (plastics, glass, cardboard, metals, etc.) that can be recycled are based on a couple of different factors. The first being the capabilities of the nearest recycling plant. Unfortunately, not all facilities can recycle certain plastics, metals and glass based on the machinery at that location. Secondly, many people do not realize that recycling facilities are also for-profit businesses and just like any business, they can only operate if they can cover the costs at the facility. Therefore, accepted materials are based on what is demanded from their buyers further down the value chain. Understanding/Familiarizing yourself with what your local facility accepts can help them be more efficient and avoid contamination. Lastly, cleaning food and dirt off the materials before placing them into your recycling bin drastically helps mitigate contamination. Food contamination and placing the incorrect materials in your bin is a facility’s largest problem. It can lead to thousands of pounds per day of materials not getting recycled!
To understand what you can and cannot recycle, start by doing some research. You may have wondered why there are numbers associated with plastic containers. These numbers correlate to different plastic resin codes that identify what type of plastic the package is. You can find this out by a quick internet search and compare these to what your city accepts. While you are searching the web, type in “What can be recycled in (enter city and state)” to learn what can be recycled in your community. For Clevelanders, you can go to, which provides you a list of what is currently accepted and where it can be recycled if it cannot be recycled at home.

How Does This Challenge Benefit Me?

Do you ever see the massive amounts of garbage in bodies of water, on the side of the road, and at the beach? Trash is EVERYWHERE and it harms the environment in which we live and share with many other living organisms. By understanding what you can recycle, you actively help to keep our environment healthy, green, and safe for all.

What If I Already Do This?

Educate a friend and influence them to recycle! Everyone can make an impact.

Prep This Weekend for a More Sustainable Week

As you shop at the grocery store this weekend, notice the type of packaging your food is stored in. Is a recyclable option available? If so, buy that and remember to bring your reusable shopping bags! You can also try to buy fresher food that is packaged less or not at all.


What if there is not a recyclable option for fruits and vegetables?
If you must use a plastic bag from the store, make sure to bring it back to a grocer who offers mono-film recycling (meaning there is only one layer of plastic to the bag, for example, grocery bags). Some grocers have a big bin outside their store to collect plastic bags. These bags will be recycled and reused, but remember it is best to avoid single-use plastic altogether.

Taking this challenge? Spread the word and use the hashtag #Waves4Change so we can change the world together and inspire others to live better.