We can all agree, pop quizzes … they’re the worst. Anna Sacks (@thetrashwalker) recently proved this by posting a little recycling “pop quiz” on TikTok. And oof, it’s a tough one.
The quiz covers five materials that are probably in your kitchen right now. Here’s a quick rundown of what she covers.
@thetrashwalker Recycling pop quiz #nyc #donate #donatedontdump #dumpsterdiving #haul #shopping #recycle #climatechange #reuse #thrift #decor #free #zerowaste #eco #sustainable #ecofriendly #TheRealPussinBoots ♬ Wes Anderson-esque Cute Acoustic – Kenji Ueda
Paper towels. Paper towels are never recyclable. Are they compostable? Maybe. That depends on the composting programs you have accessible to you. If you’re composting at home, you may want to ensure you’re buying compostable-friendly paper towels, or avoid it if you’re not sure.
Glass. This one seems easy. Glass is recyclable, right? Well … maybe. Glass bottles and jars are, as long as they’re cleared of all traces of food or product first. Other types of glass — like the glass that candles come in, as well as dishes and pyrex — are not recyclable.
Moving on, Anna poses the first trick question: cups. She holds up one cup that is plastic and recyclable, as indicated on the bottom via the recyclable symbol. She then holds up another cup (which looks just like the first cup to us?) which isn’t recyclable because it’s made of “compostable materials.” Like before, this cup is only compostable in some composting programs.
Next up are soft plastics and plastic bags. “If you can crumble it up, it’s soft plastic,” Anna explains. So is it recyclable? Nope. However, many grocery stores accept soft plastics along with their plastic bag collection services.
Time for another trick question. Aluminum foil (or sneaky aluminum foil-looking products). Aluminum foil is recyclable in some places. Metalized plastic, often found on yogurt lids and similar tubs are not. Neither is aluminum foil when mixed with paper, like you’d get wrapped around your deli sandwich.
Yikes. Many commenters were left with their heads spinning.
“It’s all so overwhelming. Why can’t the government force companies to make their packaging materials uniformly recyclable?” one commenter says.
“Why can’t this be easier?” another laments.
We agree. Why can’t it be easier? With our current system in place, it’s no wonder that only about 5% of plastic gets recycled in America.
While this post may make recycling seem a bit overwhelming, there are tons of resources out there on how to recycle and even how to compost. There are even online services that will let you look up your own city or town’s specific recycling guidelines since they can vary by region.
Anna’s video serves as a great resource for additional recycling tips.
As one commenter succinctly puts it, this is the “most helpful video of my day!”
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