Recycling: Quick facts and tips for a greener tomorrow

by Louisa Pflaum on June 14, 2023

I just finished up 9th grade at Menlo-Atherton High School. In my Ethnic Studies class, our end-of-year assignment was to research a civic issue and perform advocacy work in our community. I chose the topic of plastic pollution and found some surprising facts about recycling in my research that I’d like to share with you all.

Only about 9% of all plastics ever produced have been recycled.

  1. Recycling is different everywhere. It is crucial to know what items your recycling plant accepts. (See below for a list of items that SMC Recology does not accept.)
  2. The ♻ symbol does not necessarily mean something is recyclable. The main purpose of this symbol is to indicate the type of plastic, not whether it is recyclable.
  3. Objects often have the ♻ symbol with a number in the middle — different numbers mean different things. Numbers 1 and 2 are recyclable in most of the U.S. Items labeled with a 4 and 7 are not accepted in curbside programs.

Here are some ways you can help:

  • Do not put your recycling in plastic bags. Instead, just put them loose in the recycling bin. Often recyclables in those opaque trash bags do not get recycled.
  • While it is a common misconception that taking off the caps is better, experts recommend leaving the caps ON plastic water bottles so it has a higher chance of getting recycled. If you take the cap off, because of its small size it would usually end up in a landfill on its own.
  • Make sure your bottles and containers are clean and dry before you put them in the recycling.
  • Consider switching to brands that have recyclable packaging (not bubble wrap/styrofoam).

Our recycling service (Recology) does NOT accept:

    • Packaging materials (styrofoam peanuts and bubble wrap)
    • Pizza boxes
    • Food and liquid
    • DVD and CDs
    • Cling wrap, stretch and pallet wrap, plastic films
    • Plastic bags
    • Nursery pots and buckets

See the Recology SMC website for alternative places to take these items. I hope this helps — happy recycling!

(Sources: New York Times, Case Western University “The Daily”, Recology SMC, Recycle by City)

This article originally appeared in the Ladera Crier; used with permission.

Photo of Louisa recycling by Robb Most (c) 2023


Paul Perret June 14, 2023 at 5:23 pm

Several clarifications re what Recology accepts as recyclable (according to the Recology website):

Food scraps and pizza boxes (greasy): “Place this item in your green compost cart.”

Pizza boxes (empty, no food residue): “Place this item in your blue recycling cart.”

Sally Cole June 15, 2023 at 11:22 am

Great post, very informative! Thanks, Louisa!

Ann Gnuse Diederich June 18, 2023 at 4:38 pm

Great info, Louisa!

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