Common Misconceptions of Recycling

Recycling is one of the most effective things you can do to help the world. But a big reason many people don’t recycle, is that they don’t know what exactly to recycle. To help ease the confusion, here are some busted common myths about recycling.

Common Misconceptions of Recycling

#1) Waukesha South doesn’t recycle. (54% of South Students think this.*)

This is a common misconception that many Waukesha South students have, and it leads to many of them not recycling. The fact though is that Waukesha South officially does recycle, and as for evidence for this claim you can go outside and see the multiple dumpsters Waukesha South has, and note one of them is for recycling.

#2) You can’t recycle containers with a little bit of food in them. (52% of South students think.)

This is a myth, that I myself have been guilty of believing from time to time. The fact of the matter is that according to Recology (Company that runs San Francisco's recycling program), a little bit of food residue (pizza grease on a pizza box, yogurt you can’t scoop from a yogurt cup, etc.) won’t cause recycling companies to throw away the food containers.

#3) It doesn’t matter the quality of what you recycle. (40% of South students think.)

This piggybacks off the last misconception, while whether what you recycle has a little bit of food grease, tape, or other non recyclable materials doesn’t influence whether or not the recycling companies take you recyclables, they do influence how much the recycling companies gets for its recyclables. This is because companies pay more for “purer” recyclables. For example, Epic Plastics, a company that produces plastic goods, and buys its materials from recycling facilities, pays less to facilities whose plastic supplies aren’t that clean. So while you can throw your yogurt container in the recycling bin, right after eating it, if you take 5 seconds to wash it, you could be saving your city a couple of bucks. After all, most recycling is done by local municipalities.

#4) You can recycle plastic bags. (54% of South students think.)

In Wisconsin you can not actually recycle plastic grocery bags in normal curbside pick up (or at the recycling bins at school). There are some independent corporations like Meijer that offer recycling for plastic bags, but you have to bring them and drop them off there.

#5) It’s fine if you throw trash in the recycling bin because people will sort it anyway. (10% of South students think.)

This is a big problem currently in our society. Many people think it's fine to throw trash in the recycling because it will be sorted out at the recycling facility anyway. This though isn’t true, if a load of recycling has too much trash, it gets thrown out by the facility. Some recycling facilities even fine people who put too much trash mixed with their recycling. This is why a lot of stuff at Waukesha South doesn’t get recycled, since there’s too much trash in the recycling bins, and the school doesn’t want to pay a fine, so they just throw all of the recycling bin stuff into the trash.

#6) You don’t have to recycle biodegradable plastic, since it will decompose naturally. (20% of South students think.)

This is another problematic misconception. Not properly disposing of biodegradable plastic (a.k.a. recycling them) leads to the plastic decomposing and releasing methane gas into the atmosphere. Methane gas is much worse than carbon dioxide in affecting the environment and causing global warming and climate change. Companies just use the term biodegradable to convince you their products are eco-friendly, but the truth is, that plastic products can’t be truly eco-friendly.

*These percentages are estimates based on a survey filled out by 50 Waukesha South students.