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Common mistakes when it comes to recycling

Posted at 11:23 PM, Apr 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-03 14:22:07-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A heads up here in Las Vegas: you might be recycling wrong!

Related: The ugly truth about recycling in the US: it's garbage

Gather your plastics, paper, glass and aluminum in one place and you’re good to go. Or are you?

"There are a number of ways that we can do recycling the wrong way. That creates all sorts of challenges downstream here at the recycling center," says Jeremy Walters, the sustainability expert at Republic Services of Southern Nevada

Think twice before just throwing anything into the recycle bin. Not all paper and plastic is created equal.

One common mistake: wet or soiled items. If anything spills in the bin or gets on paper it’s useless and they have to throw it away.
As a rule of thumb: keep flexible plastic out of the bin (i.e. plastic bags)

Walters gave us this analogy: "Think about it like a vacuum cleaner. As your hair gets wrapped around the rollers and potentially tangles up, eventually that vacuum becomes inefficient or may jam all together. That same principle applies with a grocery bag. Once that grocery bag goes into one our screens, it will tangle and wrap around there."

Related: Why you may be hurting, not helping, when you recycle

There’s a word for what many people do: 'wish-cycle’. That is throwing everything into the recycling bin, hoping that it will get recycled.

Rachel Lewison, the Southern Nevada recycling coordinator at the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection said: "Sometimes those materials are not recyclable and they can contaminate the recycling bin or dangerous for the workers at the recycling facility. It’s definitely not the consumers or residents of Las Vegas fault to wish-cycle."

Does this mean that we have to go back to sorting everything ourselves at the curb? No, but…

"We still have to to be mindful of what we recycle in our single-stream recycling container," says Lewison

As of 2019, Southern Nevada held a 30 percent contamination rate compared to the national average of 17 percent.

"Recycling is very important but it’s only a piece of the puzzle. When we are talking about sustainability, we’re talking reuse, reduce and then recycle. Recycle comes last. It’s very important but it’s your last line of defense," says Walters

You can find more recycling tips here.

Related: Consider recycling your Christmas tree in Las Vegas