The Truth behind Plastic Recycling

Recycling Explained

Plastic. It’s everywhere, and with so much of it ending up in our waste stream, confusion about recycling it is rampant. Here at Millennium Recycling, we’re dedicated to helping you navigate the world of plastic recycling effectively.

Busting the Myths: Not All Plastics Are Created Equal

Let’s face it, recycling plastic can be frustrating. You might think a plastic container can be recycled because it has a recycling symbol, but then end up finding out it’s not accepted in the bin. Here’s the key takeaway: focus on the shape, not the number.

Recyclable Rockstars: Bottles, Tubs & Jugs— These champions, typically made from PET (like water bottles) and HDPE (like milk jugs), are widely accepted in most curbside recycling programs, including ours here in Sioux Falls! They have a clear path to become new and useful products.

The Recycling Blues: Other Plastics— This category includes clamshells, takeout trays, solo cups, plastic bags, and many other plastic items. These plastics often contain a mix of materials or have complex designs, making recycling difficult or impractical.

So, why does only about 10% of plastic actually get recycled? Here’s the breakdown:

Mixed Materials & Contamination: Those tricky non-recyclable plastics can contaminate recycling bins, making it difficult to reprocess even the good stuff.

Lack of Markets: The demand for recycled plastics from these non-recyclable items isn’t always high enough, making recycling them uneconomical, particularly for small businesses that don’t receive public funding or state support.

The good news? You can still be part of the solution! Here’s how:

Stick to the YES List: Know what Millennium Recycling accepts. We have a handy guide on our website that focuses on container shapes, not confusing numbers, to make it as easy as possible to know what goes in your bin (hint— for plastics, it’s Bottle, Tubs & Jugs):  See the Yes List.

Reduce & Reuse: Before you recycle, consider if you can avoid plastic altogether. Can you buy products with minimal packaging? Get creative and reuse those plastic containers around the house!

But wait, there’s more! While informed consumers are important, the responsibility shouldn’t fall solely on us. Here’s why:

Manufacturer Responsibility: The finger needs to point towards the plastic industry. Manufacturers should be designing their products with clear recycling labels and recyclability in mind.

They should also be held accountable for creating robust markets for recycled plastics, especially for those tricky non-recyclables we mentioned.

Imagine a world where…

  • Clear Labeling: All plastic packaging is clearly labeled with recycling information based on shape, not confusing numbers.
  • Manufacturer Accountability: Manufacturers take responsibility for the end-of-life cycle of their products, designing them for recyclability and creating a strong market for recycled plastics.

By working together – consumers, manufacturers, and legislators – we can turn the tide on plastic pollution. Let’s hold manufacturers accountable, recycle the right plastics diligently, and move towards a future where plastic waste is minimized and responsibly managed.

Remember, every recycled bottle, tub, and jug makes a difference!