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Expert shares crucial insight in behind-the-scenes tour at recycling facility: 'I did see some examples of wish cycling'

"This is the coolest!"

"This is the coolest!"

Photo Credit: TikTok

If it's available in your area, recycling is a great way to get aluminum, glass, paper, and other waste off your hands while at least decreasing the chances the item ends up in a landfill or the ocean. However, there are some essential tips to remember before you toss items in the recycling bin. 

TikToker Shelbizleee (@shelbizleee) recently had the opportunity to go on a behind-the-scenes tour of her local recycling facility in Austin, Texas, and shared some crucial recycling pointers.

The scoop

As the creator walked around the massive recycling center, she explained that facilities like these are called materials recovery facilities (MRFs). In short, these centers receive, separate, and prepare single-stream recycling materials to be sold to end buyers. 

The TikToker added that these types of facilities simplify the recycling process and ensure as many items as possible get recycled. 

"But while I was there, I did see some examples of wish cycling, which is when you put something in the bin hoping it's accepted at your facility, but it's not, and it actually harms the process," she said. 

@shelbizleee It's America Recycles Day ♻️ so I got to go behind the scenes at MY recycling facility (@balconesresources) thanks to @AustinRecycles 🌎🌍🌏 There is SO MUCH info out there about recycling, and most of it is confusing LOL if you live in Austin they are doing their best to make that info clear & accessible so they made an app! Download the Austin Recycles to use the What Do I Do With... tool and if you don't live in ATX take this post + America Recycles Day as a sign to learn the correct way to recycle where you live! 💡But here's a tip that applies almost everywhere, THIN PLASTICS ARE A NO IN THE BLUE BIN. A recent study estimated that about 15 to 20% of contamination in Austin's recycling stream is from items like stretchy plastics. Even better news for recycling - you can use the app to schedule an appointment for the Recycle and Reuse Drop-off Center for those hard-to-recycle items like stretchy plastics. 📲 Download the Austin Recycles app at AustinTexas.gov/MySchedule or your app store today! (link in my story)   #AustinRecycles #RecycleRight #AmericaRecyclesDay ♬ Recycle - Instrumental - Modest James

For example, she explained that you should never put thin plastics in your recycling bin. Per the City of Austin website, they can get tangled in sorting machines at the facilities. 

However, if your city offers it, you can bring items made of stretchy, film-like plastic — such as plastic bags, trash bags, plastic film, and wrap — to your local Recycle and Reuse Drop-off Center to be processed, though this form of recycling is often unsuccessful and needs overhauling, per a recent Grist report

That doesn't mean we give up on giving items a chance to be recycled, and that starts with doing it properly. In the caption, the creator highlighted the importance of properly recycling items: "A recent study estimated that about 15 to 20% of contamination in Austin's recycling stream is from items like stretchy plastics."

"If you have any other questions about the do's and don'ts of what to put in your blue bin, check with your city. And for Austinites, the Austin Recycles App is the best resource for this," she concluded.

How it's helping

Believe it or not, recycling correctly can actually save you money on taxes. As News12 New Jersey reported, if recycling crews have to spend a lot of time separating trash from recyclables, the costs get passed down to cities and then to taxpayers. 

It may take a little extra time to sort your items or take thin plastics to a drop-off location, but it's worth it to get it right. 

Properly sorting recycling also benefits the planet by keeping waste out of landfills, where it generates heat-trapping gases like methane and contaminates ecosystems. Trash that doesn't make it to landfills or recycling facilities often winds up in the ocean, parks, or roadways, where it can pollute the environment and harm wildlife. 

Greenpeace USA recently called plastic recycling a "failed concept," noting how as little as 5% of plastic products actually end up recycled, much of that even when it is put in recycling bins. But while "reduce" and "reuse" are more important than "recycle" in the three R's, it's important to remember that most other forms of recycling are much more successful, and that recycling even 5% of plastic is still better than 0%. Every bit makes a difference.

So while it may seem trivial to keep thin plastics out of your recycling bin, it has a massive positive impact on the environment and contributes to a cleaner future for humans and animals alike. 

If you need help getting rid of old stuff, companies make it easier than ever to donate, sell, or swap it for store credit. For example, Best Buy offers free e-cycling, and Patagonia will give you store credit for unwanted items.


What everyone's saying

Commenters were appreciative of the recycling info and wanted to know more.

"This is the coolest!" someone said. 

"What are some examples of thin plastics?" one user asked, to which the creator replied, "Plastic grocery bags, bubbly wrap, anything flexible honestly."

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