3

So many of our products have stickers/tape on them, i.e. boxes, glass and plastic. I have been removing stickers/tape from boxes (except amazons recyclable tape) but do I need to be doing this for all products? Or am I wasting my time doing something unnecessary?

3

Generally speaking, the processing of recycled materials is done with (a certain amount of) contamination taken into account (for plastic, up to 30%).

  • When plastic recycling was introduced here in The Netherlands, I phoned the agency promoting this with the question if I needed to remove the paper price stickers from plastic packaging. They said that was not necessary. We did not discuss the exact reason then.
  • Labels from plastic bottles are washed off (video).
  • Paper recycling installations come with steps to remove contamination like plastic and staples, both at the start of the process and when the paper is pulped (video).
  • When recycling glass, the glass is heated* to 'dry off' any labels or food residue. This is then separated from the glass with air.

So what you do not remove, the processing plant will.
OTOH you could argue that the cleaner the input stream is, the more efficient the recycling process will be - if only in reducing the measured percentage of unrecyclable materials at the plant.
For that reason I also split my waste into as many clean streams as possible.

The linked videos are worth watching in their entirety, and there are many more videos available if you search Youtube for plastic recycling, paper recycling, glass recycling, etc.

* Contrary to what many people think, recycled glass is not washed with water.

  • Nice answer. I wonder if cleaning food containers (getting out all the food residue, for instance) is thus more important than getting the labels off? – LShaver Jan 9 at 17:39
  • @LShaver My guess is removing the labels is more important: food residu will just be dust after drying, and can be blown off, and some remains in the glass won't matter when heated to 1300-1600 C. Make that a new question - I can't answer it ;-) – Jan Doggen Jan 10 at 10:56
  • Looks like that's been addressed here: How 'clean' should something be for recycling? – LShaver Jan 10 at 14:51

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.