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Slapped With the Orange Recycling Sticker of Shame? Here's How to Avoid It

By Patty Wetli | April 16, 2015 9:38am
 Electronics in your recycling? Orange sticker!
Electronics in your recycling? Orange sticker!
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DNAinfo/Kyla Gardner

IRVING PARK — Saving the environment is hard work — and confusing too.

If your recycling bin's ever been slapped with Streets and San's orange sticker of shame, you know what we're talking about.

"What did I do wrong?" you wonder, as you stare at your rejected jumble of paper and plastic.

Folks in Old Irving Park were so perplexed, they called in Miss Green Genes, aka sustainability expert Laura Mathews, for a tutorial on recycling's do's and don't's.

Starting with the do's: aluminum containers (OK to leave the labels on); plastic bottles and containers (numbers one through five and seven); glass bottles and jars; clean paper; cardboard; and aerosol cans.

Don't's are trickier, and often involve caveats: one surprising no-no is aluminum foil that's touched food.

Paper if it's come in contact with human oils (so that's a big no on Kleenex) or food grease (ie, paper towels, pizza boxes) are also not recyclable. Plastic grocery bags — nope. Number six plastic. Styrofoam.

Electronics? Illegal even as trash.

Among the items people most often mistake as recyclable, coffee cups are far and away the biggest offender, Mathews said.

The cups are typically lined in wax or styrofoam, two recycling no-nos.

"If you put a coffee cup into your recyclables, it's all garbage," she said.

Surveying local haulers, Mathews also discovered that people are trying to pawn off their old garden hoses as recyclable.

They're not. Repeat: garden hoses — not recyclable.

But even Miss Green Genes was stumped as to whether recyclables can be collected in a plastic kitchen garbage bag and tossed, bag and all, into a blue bin.

We went straight to the source — Streets and San — and the short answer is "Yes."

According to spokeswoman Molly Poppe, who consulted with the department's recycling guru, "While the process is most efficient when recyclables are loose, the city encourages all residents to recycle in the manner that is most convenient."

If you're at all unsure about whether something is recyclable or not, Mathews offered this final piece of advice: "When in doubt, throw it out."

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