Are You An Aspirational Recycler?

Imagine yourself walking in the mall with a can of soda in your hand. There’s still a tiny bit of drink left but you’ve had enough and you decide to toss it. 

You see a green recycling bin and think to yourself, “I can throw it here since it’s recyclable.” So, you do. 


Unfortunately, although your heart was in the right place, your knowledge about recycling is wrong.  You are what is known as an aspirational recycler. You put trash in the recycle bins, thinking that they belong there when they actually don’t.  You may be harming rather than helping recycling efforts.


An aspirational recycler throws something into the recycling bin, hoping that someone will sort it out later. Unfortunately, doing that can cause problems at the recycling facility. 

  • It puts workers in danger, especially when they handle syringes, broken glass or biological waste, which poses as a biohazard to them. 
  • Throwing the wrong thing clogs up equipment, forcing workers to stop and fix it. Then, they make extra trips to the landfills to get rid of it. 
  • Contamination of other recyclable materials can occur, making them useless. 
  • Costs increase because it’s too expensive to sort through so much debris manually.


Some items which you definitely shouldn't recycle are wax-coated coffee cups; greasy food containers, plastic bags,  batteries and electronics, heat-treated glass, cutlery, hangers, medicine bottles, aerosol cans, shredded paper, fireworks or flares, needles, cables, wires, rubber, and yard waste. 


  • Learn more. Find out what trash goes where and put up reminders. Call your local recycling center to find out what they accept. 
  • Limit your waste. Bring your own reusable straws and utensils  
  • Avoid buying packaged produce. Buy loose produce then put them in a mesh bag
  • Make your own products. You’ll be doing away with plastic packaging

The best thing you can do if you are unsure of recycling is to do it less. Instead, focus on reducing and reusing first. But if you really must recycle, make sure to research on how to do it right.