To help you with spring cleaning, here's a dip into our mailbag. Someone recently asked us:
May I recycle sticker backings?
We checked with our paper recycler, who said... yes! In fact, if you have stickers or labels which you are not able to use or reuse, we can accept those as well.
And, of course, when a sticker or label is stuck to paper, cardboard or envelopes which you're recycling, you may leave it stuck right where it is -- you do not need to remove it. (However, you might like to remove labels with your name or address to help prevent identity theft.)
Talkin' Trash Reader W. sent us a set of questions. Very practical questions. The kind which has you standing there with an item in hand, scratching your head, and wondering beyond those basics, "Now what about THIS?" I confess: these are asked in our house, too! With thanks to you, W., here is the first post under a new blog tag titled "the finer points" of recycling (and trash disposal)...
What about the tissue left on empty toilet paper rolls - okay or will it spoil the recycle process?
Please drop those toilet paper rolls right in with your other recyclable paper items. We cannot accept paper towels, napkins, or tissues because we are concerned about receiving ones which have been used for wiping hands, noses, and messes. However, those clean little bits of towel or tissue stuck on paper towel or toilet paper rolls are fine.
It's been a tough week in terms of rain! What happens when your recyclables get caught in a downpour?
If your paper or cardboard items get wet because of rain, snow, or ice, we will still pick them up on your recycling day.
Even when the outside of paper bundles is wet, the material inside is usually dry. (The sustained heavy rain we've had in recent days has surely created exceptions to this!) If you know that wet weather is in the forecast for your collection day, you may like to hold your paper items for the following week’s collection.
Dry paper and cardboard are best. The easiest way to keep these items dry is by collecting them and setting them at the curb in a wheeled paper recycling cart. Do not put your paper or cardboard into plastic bags to keep it dry. We do not accept recyclables in plastic bags.
The end of the school year comes with cleaning out of files, shelves, desks and more.
It's easy to drop your loose papers into the next paper recycling container.
But, what about books? If you receive Montgomery County-provided curbside recycling collection, these book types can all go into your paper bundles or wheeled paper recycling carts:
The exception is leather-bound books: leather bindings cannot be recycled with paper. If it's possible to remove the book's pages, you could add those to your paper recycling, and then dispose of the binding as trash. Otherwise, please put the entire leather-bound book into the trash or put it to creative reuse.
Can we recycle salted nut canisters (cylindrical paper with metal bottom and metal top rim)?
Thanks for your question, D. Another resident asked us a very similar question a short while later. And, it's one we faced in my own household last month with a coffee can of similar construction -- we stood there in the kitchen, debating the pros and cons of the various disposal and recycling options... So, the topic is ripe for a blog entry!
Our recycling program cannot accept containers made of more than one type of material; so the nut (and coffee and similar) canisters would be a "no" since the metal rim and foil paper would be a contaminant of the mixed paper recycling process.
This post generated several reader responses – thanks!
You asked whether we still accept milk and juice cartons - which may have plastic spouts and lids - or juice and drink boxes. Yes, we do! Please continue to add these to your paper recycling.
The beverage cartons and boxes are recycled using a process called hydropulping. This process is able to separate plastics, such as the plastic spout or lid, from the coated paper fibers. On the other hand, the paper-type canisters can have layers of wrapping and metal which is difficult for paper recyclers to remove. While these containers may look similar, the processes for handling them do vary. Therefore, the canisters are not recyclable in our program.
Some of you suggested creative ways to make the most of your canisters:
“I often have containers that have metal tops and bottoms and a cardboard body. I tend to take pliers to them and rip off the top and bottom and put them in our "metal" bin which we occasionally take to the Transfer Station metal area.” – submitted by M.
“We use these nut containers to pour grease into, then let it harden or refrigerate it and put it into the trash. Keep grease from going down your drain.” – submitted by B.
Our celebration of America Recycles Day is in full swing this weekend! We had two paper shredding and household donation events today. If you missed them, we've got two more for you tomorrow in Bethesda and Silver Spring.
Here are a few images from today's event in Germantown. The weather was overcast -- and thankfully, precipation was limited to the occasional light drizzle. Our staff and volunteers were in great spirits as they greeted event participants, with a friendly competition between sites to see which one had the most number of cars, paper shredded, and donations received!
A steady stream of cars came through (thank you all for coming out!). With many hands on deck for unloading, there was essentially no wait time. Participants were in and out in minutes.
Volunteers welcomed participants, handed out information, and answered questions about recycling.
Donations rolled in a trunkload at a time, with the collective results filling up the truck.
If you miss this weekend's events, remember that we accept paper you shred at home yourself in our weekly mixed paper recycling collection. (Please bundle the shreds -- that prevents them from blowing out of your container as they await collection, and as crews empty your container.) Your donations are welcomed year-round by local charities and organizations; consult our Use It Again Guide at Use It Again Guide for suggestions, if you don't already have a favorite donation spot.
Are the 1/2 gallon rectangular shaped cartons that milk and orange juice come in recyclable? I just want to do the correct thing.
Thanks for your question, R.! Sorry, our recycling program does not accept milk and juice cartons because they are coated with a thin plastic film. In order to recover the paper fibers, they would need to be separated from this film layer. That's a step most paper recycling processes are not set up to handle. So, please put these cartons into the trash.
What kinds of wrapping paper are recyclable? I specifically wonder about the shiny, metallic paper that my wife likes.
Thanks for your timely question, M.! Metallic and foil papers do create a fine-looking gift presentation! But, as much as I hate to introduce any domestic discontent, please tell your wife (gently!) that we cannot accept foil- or plastic-coated papers for recycling. We accept all other types of gift wrap paper (minus the bows and ribbons!).
In a related question, B. asked:
Can you tell me what can be done with tissue paper?
A note about the photo: that roll of gift wrap is labeled "polywrap". It looks like foil paper but... it's actually a thin plastic film. If you have or receive any of this type of wrap, please dispose of it as trash once you are finished using (and reusing) it; we cannot accept plastic films in our recycling program.
Join millions of Americans nationwide in celebrating America Recycles Day on Saturday, November 15, 2008.
America Recycles Day promotes the social, environmental and economic benefits of recycling and encourages more people to join the movement toward creating a better natural environment through increased recycling.
We are participating on November 15th by hosting events at multiple locations throughout Montgomery County that will offer paper shredding, clothing and household goods donation, and household hazardous waste collection services for Montgomery County residents only; as well as provide information on reducing, reusing, and recycling waste and buying products made with recycled content.
Do you have confidential papers which you'd like to have shredded? Bring a bag with you -- we'll have a collection point for off-site shredding by The Arc of Montgomery County. (Limit: one bag per person)
We find the fact sheets handy for answering many frequently asked questions. If you would like a quantity of any of these fact sheets to distribute to your neighborhood, multi-family tenants, employees, or other group, just let us know!
Well, that takes care of the books, but there's still the matter of the plastic bag in which they were delivered...
Reusing the plastic bag is the best choice. It's just a little larger than a grocery bag, and ties easily. So, it would make a nice trash can liner, for example. If you prefer to recycle it, just add it to the plastic bag collection at a nearby grocery store.
Now, I'm off to make that drop into my wheeled cart (after removing items like advertising magnets, and hidden goodies, like pressed leaves...)...
December 3, 2010: updated paper recycling information
From our mailbag:
Hello! Can I recycle most wrapping paper?
Thank you, D., for this question! The answer is yes.
Please add wrapping paper to your other paper recyclables. There are a few exceptions: if the paper is foil- or plastic-coated, please put it into the trash (or, reuse it, if it's still in good condition). Some wrapping "paper" is actually a thin plastic film; we cannot accept this for recycling either.
Most types of wrapping paper can be recycled along with your other types of recyclable mixed paper. There is an exception: foil wrapping paper, please put it into the trash (or, reuse it, if it's still in good condition). Some wrapping is actually not paper but a thin plastic film; we cannot accept this for recycling either.
What about ribbons and tape? Please remove the ribbons and other decorations from your wrapping paper before adding it to your paper collection. Bits of tape on the paper are fine -- you do not need to remove them.
[The holiday reminder emails are] a great service. I just would like to suggest that next December you advise your subscribers on how to dispose of the cardboard/plastic boxes that many toys come wrapped in. This year, for example, I separated the paper and the plastic parts and put them out separately for recycling. Was this correct?
Thank you, TS, for your compliment about our holiday reminder email service, and for your question. Since it's December again, it's time to pull it out of the file in which I've been safely storing it.
Thank you also for correctly preparing the toy packaging in your household for recycling. To you Gentle Readers in similar situations this holiday season (or at any time), please:
Pull out plastic bags, plastic ties, foam packing, desiccant packets, and other non-paper items from the box.
Dispose of these plastic items (except for the bags) in your regular household trash; you can add the bags to the plastic bag collection at your local grocery store.
What about plastic "windows" in toy boxes? You may leave these on the box when you give it to us for recycling.
Put the empty cardboard boxes together with your other paper recyclables, for pickup on your recycling day.
To take waste prevention yet another step further, don't buy any new cloth bags until you have first checked at home. Chances are good that you -- or a friend or relative -- already have a bag (or two or three) that would be a great shopping bag.
Now, we have two blue cans next to the Transfer Station's mixed paper recycling container. They are labeled "Books to Donate". When you put your paperback and hardback books into these cans, they are reused as books, rather than as paper fiber in our recycling program. The books are picked up by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation. This is a pilot program for us.