Dear Readers,


Many of you have had questions about recycling, so I thought a roundup would be useful. Got more green questions? Send them in!

Q: When I recycle plastic bottles or Coke bottles should I remove the cap? And is the cap recyclable or should I trash it? -- Laurie

A: Plastic caps and lids are recyclable, but most recycling plants can't or won’t process them because they get caught in the machinery. Also, caps tend to be made of a different type of plastic than the bottles and as such are considered a contaminant in most recycling programs. So, until the recycling industry gets up to speed, it is better to trash the caps.

Q: Can I recycle the overwrap from toilet tissue and paper towels with my other plastic bags? -- Robin Williams

A: Yes, most programs that accept plastic bags will also take plastic film. However, food and cling wrap, plastic film that has a lot of adhesive, or compostable bags are considered contaminants and should not be recycled. Unfortunately, curbside recycling doesn’t accept plastic bags, so you will have to find a location that does. Many supermarkets have started plastic bag and film recycling, so keep an eye out for these bins or check Earth911 for locations. Most recycled bags and film end up as composite lumber, used for decking.

Q: I strongly believe in and participate in my community’s recycling program. I have noticed lately that there is tape on cardboard boxes I break down before putting them in the bin. My question is ... is it OK to keep the tape on the boxes or does it need to be removed? Thank you very much for taking the time to answer this question. -- Rob Hogue

A: Thanks for the question. Adhesives can be a big problem in recycling, and tape, stickers and labels are all considered contaminants. It is better to remove the tape. I touched upon the issue in a previous column that can be found here. 

Q: Our local newspaper has informed us that our recycling program will no longer be accepting glass. All glass will end up in the landfill. What can I do? I thought glass was something that was easily recyclable. Isn't this taking a step backwards? -- Michele Schenck of York, Nebraska

A: I am constantly amazed by the inefficiencies of recycling programs. By all accounts, it should be a lucrative business and the demand for recycled glass is greater than the current supply. Unfortunately, 75 percent of glass ends up in landfills. There’s a good chance your recycling program will start accepting glass again – especially if you pressure them to do so. In the meantime check out Earth911, enter your ZIP code, and the site should be able to point you to a local facility that will take glass.

Q: We would like to change our own car oil but don’t know how to dispose of it. Can you help? -- Carole Mitchell

A: Recycle it! Used motor oil is loaded with heavy metals and toxins, and just one gallon of oil can pollute one million gallons of water! The good news is that motor oil can be cleaned and re-used as a fuel. Go to Earth911 to find recycling locations. Some auto mechanics use motor oil as a fuel for their heaters and will gladly take your used oil. When changing your own motor oil, drain it into a clean container with a tight fitting lid, and make sure your containers and oil change pans are free of water. (Oil that is contaminated with water or gasoline can't be recycled.) Information about changing and recycling motor oil can be found here.

Keep your questions coming, and keep it green,


(Photo: ntr23/Flickr)