Modern Day Recycling Challenges

Sharon Kneiss '77, president and CEO of the National Waste & Recycling Association, is helping to clean up -- and educate -- America.

  • In the last 20 years, curbside community blue-bin collections programs have increased from 500 communities to more than 10,000 and are now available to about 70 percent of the population.
  • Bins are carrying a lot less glass and paper and 25 percent more plastic. (“That has been a blessing and a curse,” she said. “What we’re recycling has light weighted. Because we measure recycling by tonnage, it’s a good- and a bad-news message.”)
  • One-bin (single stream recycling has made recycling a lot easier for consumers,” she said. “But because we’ve made recycling so easy, contamination has increased.”)
  • “Plastic bags are killers,” Kneiss said, unhesitating. “They are recyclable but should be taken to grocery stores.” When put in curbside bins, they can get caught in the sorting screens and cause the machinery to breakdown.
  • How about pizza boxes? On those cardboard containers, which happen to harbor lots of grease, debate persists. “People are of two minds on pizza boxes,” Kneiss says, explaining some say you probably should not put those into a recycling bin in the interest of keeping the stream clean. Others say they are not so bad.
  • There are many items you know can always go into a single stream recycling bin, including, cardboard, paper, food boxes, mail, plastic bottles and jugs and aluminum and steel cans.
  • The best rule of thumb one can live by when deciding whether something does or does not belong in a blue bin? “When in doubt, leave it out,” Kneiss advised.
Scroll to Top