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Curbside recycling tidbits

At the recent SW GreenGroup meeting, we started talking a bit about what is recyclable curbside in Portland and what is not. Whenever I struggle with an item that I'm just not sure about, I remember what my Master Recycler instructor said, "When in doubt, throw it out." If you put something in your curbside bin that isn't recyclable, it can cause a whole bunch of problems (contaminants) down the line.

Pizza boxes: If there are any food stains on the box, including grease stains, then it goes in the garbage. If free of stains, it can be recycled curbside. If part of the box is stain-free, just tear it off and recycle it, tossing the rest in the trash. It's really, really painful throwing away a pizza box, I know, but for now, that's what we've gotta do. Once we get curbside food composting, I think we'll be able to compost our pizza boxes like Seattle does currently. Or, we could lobby our local pizza chains to be more like Pizza Fusion in Florida -- they give discounts to their customers if they bring back the pizza boxes for recycling!

Toothpaste tubes: Most are made of layers of various materials and can't be recycled, so throw them away. Tom's of Maine, however, is made of aluminum, so it can be considered "scrap metal" and recycled curbside, without the lid. No need to attempt cleaning it out, just squeeze as much out as you can.

Starbucks coffee cups, et al: Not recyclable. The corrugated sleeves are, and I *think* the lids can be recycled at the Plastics Roundup, but the cups are infused with a chemical that holds in heat and is a contaminant in the recycling process. Best to bring your own travel mug!

Freezer boxes: Any box that can be stored in the freezer, like frozen waffle and popsicle boxes, are not recyclable curbside. I know, I know, some of them feel no different than a cereal box. However, most likely they are layered with a contaminent that, like the Starbucks cups, makes the box hold up under moisture. You could take these boxes to Far West Fibers put them in the scrap paper bin and they might end up getting bundled overseas for further sorting, but maybe not.

Plastic Lids: No plastic lids of any kind can be recycled curbside (at least at this writing). Milk jugs, soda bottles, shampoo bottles -- you've got to remove the lids because they are likely made of a different plastic than the bottle. Don't toss the lids, however. The can be recycled at the Plastics Roundup.

Canned food containers: This is just a tip -- you don't have to remove the paper wrapping from tin cans (like soup cans), but the paper won't get recycled if you don't. Try to take the extra 5 seconds and rip the paper off so it can be recycled.

Any questions about other materials that may or may not be recyclable, either curbside or at a Plastics Roundup? Post a comment here or send us an email at enviromompdx [at] gmail [dot] com and we'll do our best to get the answer.


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