NEWSFLASH! Just because an item has a recycle symbol on it doesn’t mean you can place it in your curbside recycling bin.
For example, Solo cups, those red or blue disposable plastic cups you use for parties and barbecues to make cleanup a snap, are not recyclable curbside or at drop-off sites anywhere in Northwest Indiana. Even worse, once thrown in the garbage, it is estimated that each cup will take hundreds of years to break down in a landfill!
On the bottom of the cups, you’ll note the recycling symbol, or “chasing arrows,” with a “6” in the center, which indicates they are made from polystyrene. Many people believe the chasing arrows symbol designates a product is acceptable for the recycle bin; however, this is not the case. That mark with the number is solely to identify the type of plastic from which it is made!
Because the chasing arrows symbol has been widely misinterpreted over the years, there is a movement to replace the chasing arrows with a solid triangle to avoid this confusion. On many items, you’ll already see the change.
The types of materials that are recyclable curbside in Northwest Indiana may be different from the materials accepted for recycling anywhere else in the United States, because what’s accepted depends on the capabilities of the materials recovery facility (MRF) that ultimately sorts, bales and sells them.
• If the MRF cannot process the material or product, then it is not recyclable curbside in your area.
• If the MRF cannot sell the resulting baled material because there is no market for it, then the material is not recyclable curbside in your area.
In Northwest Indiana, our recyclables go to sorting facilities Illinois that have determined there are no markets for #6 plastic; no one wants to purchase it, and it’s not profitable for the MRF to process it and ship it elsewhere.
Solo cups that end up at the MRF ultimately get buried in a landfill. Inappropriate material that goes to sorting facilities can contaminate valuable materials, add time and expense to material processing time and drive up recycling fees!
Because a material isn’t recyclable curbside doesn’t mean it’s not recyclable at all. Many times, there are other places you can take the material where it can be recycled.
In the case of Solo cups, a company called TerraCycle will accept and recycle Solo cups. Participants can even turn Solo cup recycling into a fundraising opportunity. Visit www.terracycle.com for details.
In addition, area Subaru dealerships are working with TerraCycle and are now accepting disposable cups for recycling:
5020 US Highway 6, Portage, IN
International Subaru of Merrillville (soon)
1777 West US Route 30
If you are looking for an alternative to Solo cups at your event, try offering reusable cups or serve drinks in their original containers: bottles and cans that ARE recyclable. If you want to split hairs, you can offer plastic disposable cups that aren't Solo cups or a cup that is not #6 plastic, as that is the material that really isn't recyclable here in NWI.
Events create a lot of waste. If you are concerned about your event’s impact on the planet, remember the slogan “Reduce, reuse, recycle, RETHINK!”
REDUCE: Don’t buy products like Solo cups. Reduce your consumption of disposable products.
REUSE! Will reusable cups, plates and utensils work? What would your guests say if you asked them to bring their own cups (BYOC)?
RECYCLE!: If reusable items just aren’t convenient, offer products that can be recycled, like cans and bottles. Be sure to offer recycling bins at your event so your guest can recycle. We can help!
RETHINK your event; don’t plan, buy or do things just because you’ve done it that way in the past. Change can be good; good for you and the planet!