• Barbara Moran

    Barbara Moran, Senior Science Writer

    Barbara Moran is a science writer in Brookline, Mass. Profile

Comments & Discussion

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There are 5 comments on Trash or Recycle?

  1. Waste management is a tricky business, and it is incumbent upon people who care about recycling to educate themselves and others about the proper sorting procedures where they live. While I find Dr. Trudel’s research to be interesting and valuable, some of the examples he gives here are misinformed.

    Plasticized paper (like the ubiquitous polyethylene-lined coffee cups), waxed paper, and foil paper (like many gum wrappers, burger wrappers, etc) are not recyclable in Boston; unfortunately only a handful of municipalities around the nation have the capability to recycle these problematic materials. Any grease-saturated paper (presumably most burger wrappers, even if they are not foil paper) should also be discarded in the trash, as lipids contaminate the pulping process in paper recycling. Very small pieces of paper are difficult to manage in recycling sorting facilities and should only be recycled in aggregate, e.g. bagged together in a paper bag.

    We can recycle plastic coffee cup tops and cardboard sleeves, but those coffee cups should go in the trash, even if they spelled your name right. Admittedly, it can be difficult to keep these things straight; the rules vary from town to town, and they change from time to time. That said, the information is readily available online, and I encourage anyone who cares to stay informed and to inform others. When in doubt, it is certainly better to err on the side of recycling. Sorting facilities attempt to remove contaminants from the recycling stream, whereas nobody screens the trash for recyclables.

    1. What you are implying, then, is that we need consistent rules across the country. And I completely agree– in MA, some towns recycle aluminum’ others don’t. Some DO recycle cardboard cups, others don’t, etc.MIT is VERY confusing. No wonder people opt for the easy answer– just throw it in the trash.

  2. Another thing to consider is this. I have encountered evangelicals who believe that it is pointless to recycle or even practice energy conservation because god will take care of everything so no need to worry. I am not making this up I promise.

  3. When I lived in a progressive blue state, I got hooked on recycling. We knew & abided the guidelines. It was great!! Then, we move back home to the Deep South. The house we bought had enormous shower doors that had to go. Of course, we were going to recycle them. I filled the van with everything recyclable–flattened moving boxes, newspapers, plastics, glass, aluminum, etc. The van was packed to the max! We drive to the recycling place on a Saturday morning. It is closed! We go to the nearby “dump” to find out why. The employee there said that it’s only open for 2 hours every Wednesday afternoon!!! How can that be?? He said that until the local government got behind recycling, it was never going to change. This state is extremely red & is sinking into the gulf. We paid $25 to unload our recyclables at the dump. I felt physical pain while doing this!! I still do. Everytime I bring the garbage to the curb. It hurts. When I shop, packaging makes a difference. I pass on stupid packaging.

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