By Aleta Daniels, Executive Director, Keep Prince William Beautiful
When it comes up in conversation that the non-profit organization I work for has an Education and Outreach program that includes recycling information in Prince William County, I am immediately peppered with questions about what or how to recycle, whether items put in the recycling bin actually get recycled or just thrown in the landfill, and just what the heck is going on with glass recycling here and elsewhere in the country. If you have questions that fall into any of these categories, take some comfort in knowing you’re not alone. Recycling can be confusing, but it doesn’t have to be!
Recycling is a great way to prevent items we no longer have a use for from going to the landfill by extending their useful lifespan. This breaks the “use it and trash it” cycle of some of our most commonly used and discarded items (such as plastic soda and water bottles). The recycling process uses significantly less energy and resources than using virgin materials, resulting in a reduced ecological footprint.
While most people have a general understanding of what recycling is and why it’s important, that understanding gets a little fuzzy when trying to determine what actually is recyclable. Adding to the confusion, what is accepted at the recycling facility, or materials recovery facility, can vary from state to state and even county to county. Some items require special, expensive machinery to help with the recycling process, which not all municipalities are able to afford.
Here are some helpful guidelines for Prince William residents. If you would like more info on the items mentioned in the list below, visit kpwb.org/recycling-in-prince-william-county/. With all recyclable materials, please do not bag your items; place them loose in the bin.
Recycling Dos and Don’ts
DO recycle clean #1 and #2 plastic bottles and jugs.
DON’T recycle #3-7 plastics or items that previously contained hazardous materials (such as oil, flammable materials, chemicals, etc.).
DON’T recycle packaging material. Bubble wrap, air pillows and plastic wrap all need to go to the trash rather than the recycling bin
ALUMINUM, STEEL, AND AEROSOL CANS
DO recycle empty and clean aluminum, steel and aerosol cans. Please pre-crush your cans to help save space in the recycling truck!
DON’T recycle full aerosol cans. Full aerosol cans are considered hazardous. Hazardous liquids can combust when heated.
DO recycle newspapers, magazines, catalogs, junk mail, office paper and paperboard boxes, such as cracker and tissue boxes.
DON’T recycle frozen meal boxes. These often contain a plastic lining that clogs up the recycling machinery in facilities that are not equipped to handle these items.
DO recycle clean cardboard. Please flatten your cardboard boxes. A little leftover tape stuck to the boxes is ok, but please remove any large globs of tape.
DON’T recycle dirty or greasy cardboard (such as pizza boxes).
GLASS, MIRRORS, AND CERAMICS
DO recycle clear and colored glass bottles and jars. Glass items are not accepted in your curbside bins. Please take your clean glass directly to the recycling facility.
DON’T recycle mirrors, ceramics, or lightbulbs.
Keep Prince William Beautiful, Inc. is a non-profit environmental organization that serves Prince William County through partnering with residents, businesses and government to educate and inspire people to be environmental stewards and keep Prince William beautiful. Programs include community litter cleanups, outreach and education programs, sustainable activities for home or the classroom, and much more. You can find more information about their programs at kpwb.org.