LINCOLN SQUARE — Chicago has a garbage problem.
No, we're not talking about the city's beaches, which were trashed over the recent Memorial Day weekend.
We're talking about the ongoing battle to educate residents on what can and can't be recycled.
The proverbial single bad apple — or, in this case, greasy pizza box — can ruin the contents of an entire blue bin. Instead of saving the planet, folks are actually creating more fodder for landfills.
In some instances, no-nos like plastic bags and shredded paper clog recycling machines and cause the equipment to break down. In other instances, like coffee cups, recyclable material (paper) is impossible to separate from nonrecyclable material (the cups' waxy lining).
Here are the Top 10 troublemakers that are turning your recyclables into trash. Keep them out of your blue bin, or the whole lot will end up in a landfill:
• Pizza boxes — the grease is the culprit here. Either put the entire box in the garbage or tear off the greasy part before recycling.
• Styrofoam, aka No. 6 plastic
• Coffee cups
• Electronics — yep, they're made of metals and plastics; nope, not recyclable.
• Potato chip and other snack bags
• Toys and other odd-shaped plastics like laundry baskets
• Stringy things like garden hoses, cables/cords and Christmas tree lights — they wrap around sorting equipment.
So what can you recycle? Here are the safest items:
• Bottles, be they glass or plastic
• Mail, including envelopes with plastic windows
• Cans, even empty aerosol cans
• Boxes, except greasy pizza boxes
When in doubt, leave it out. Or check first with the website Recycle By City, which contains a wealth of information on the do's and don'ts of recycling.