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Best Recycling Advice: Don't Agonize Over It

Flickr Photo/Chelsea Nesvig

Northwest denizens are known to take their recycling responsibilities seriously. But it can be confusing to keep on top of all the rules. Tom Watson from the King County Recycling and Environmental Services in Seattle told Steve Scher on The Record that you don't need to agonize too much about it.

Recycling is big business, with many of the materials getting sold overseas. Watson estimates that about 90 percent of what goes into your bin gets used in new materials. "It doesn’t get collected if there isn’t a market for it," he said.

Watson offered some recycling tips, though each program is going to be a little bit different. But don't worry if you accidentally put something that is non-recyclable in your green bin. Watson said that there are human eyes going through the materials and one bad item won't dismiss the whole load (unless it has a contaminating property, like a chemical or dirty diapers).

Go by shape, not number. Most programs now accept all bottles and tubs regardless of what number is on the bottom.

Put bags in bags. Produce bags and other plastic bags can be recycled if they are grouped together in one bag — loose bags can clog the machines. Blister packaging and bubble wrap can be recycled the same way.

Keep it clean. Recycled material should be clean and dry before being collected, but don't sweat it too much. Watson said that a simple rinse or wipe with a old rag is fine.

Be careful with caps. Seattle's recycling program can accept bottle caps and lids that are 3 inches or larger; smaller ones will clog the machines. This goes for metal or plastic.

For more resources, check out King County EcoConsumer.