Caps on or caps off?  Are all products that contain a recycling arrow safe to place in the recycling stream?  What about the aluminum foil used to cover mom’s famous lasagna?  Just how clean does that peanut butter jar need to be to qualify it as a recyclable item?  Did you know ‘gable top’ milk cartons have joined the list of the acceptable-to-recycle?

These questions and many more are tackled by Shoreview Environmental Quality Committee Chair Tim Pratt and Ramsey County Environmental Educator Jean Buckley in “Our Neighborhoods, Our Environment: Recycling Myths and Mysteries Solved.”

Twenty-five years after the launch of the recycling movement, a still-voluntary recyclable designation system and haulers focused on transportation & not education created the need for Pratt and Buckley’s informational outreach.

Here are a few answers to questions posed above, and more:

  1. The caps on or off plastic bottles answer is currently  “caps on,” despite changes on the question over time.
  2. Because the inclusion of the recycling arrow is voluntary and not regulated, not all items containing it are recyclable, nor are all items without it necessarily un-recyclable.  Pratt says it comes down the type of plastic– whether it is a container, color black/not black, or is stretch film vs. crinkly plastic.
  3. Sorry, but aluminum foil is not acceptable because of its typically being soiled and the fact it doesn’t melt down the same as cans.
  4. As an exception to the rule all items need to be clean and dry, Buckley said peanut butter jars can be wiped out with a paper towel and deposited as a recyclable.
  5. It may come as a big surprise that ‘gable top’ half-gallon milk cartons are recyclable.
  6. Fifteeen percent of what Shoreview residents try to recycle needs redirection elsewhere.  Several years ago, Shoreview residents were 95% effective in sorting their recyclable material.  The extra labor required today adds dollars to our monthly recycling bill.
  7. Please do not send your plastic bags to the recycling center.  Take them to a large grocery retailer, so they can be appropriately ‘baled’ and sold to an appropriate company.
  8. Cardboard and paper products are the most differentiated, and therefore have a lot of variables that qualify them as recyclables or not.
  9. Organics accepted at composting sites in Ramsey County accept an array of items that don’t fall strictly in the fruit & vegetable category.  Visit a site to learn more.
  10. Don’t tell the kids 🙂 that pizza boxes from restaurants are currently recyclable.  Frozen pizza boxes, like most food cardboard in the freezer, are not, however.

For more on just what is and what is not recyclable, please visit: RamseyRecycles.

(Methodology: To develop the material shared in the presentation, Buckley’s department surveyed 5 area MRFs (Materials Recycling Facilities) for their handling of a specific set of items.  Where discrepancies existed, they offer the approach taken by Republic, which services residents of Shoreview.)

(Note: The presentation officially begins at the 5:40 mark of this 1 hour, 5 minute production.)