PORTLAND, Ore. —
Curbside recycling has become a way of life. It's part of our weekly routine. But a lot of us are doing it wrong. We're throwing stuff into our recycling bin that shouldn't be there.
About 9 percent of what we put into our blue recycling bin is actually garbage, according to Metro. Things like dog beds, plastic bags and diapers don't belong in the recycling.
"It's often called wishful recycling," explained Vinod Singh of Far West Recycling.
The worst way to throw something away is to put it in your recycling bin, Singh said. These non-recyclable items, called contaminants, have to be sorted out at a recycling facility and then hauled to the landfill. It wastes time, money and energy.
"You’re damaging the system in your goal to be better," Singh said. "You're actually hurting the system."
A 2015 study by Metro found residents in the Portland-metro area throw more than 9,000 tons of contaminants into their recycling bins every year.
So what are we doing wrong?
To find out, KGW collected six blue recycling bins from random neighbors, with their permission, of course. We dumped the bins into a huge pile and then sorted the items, separating trash from recyclables.
Editor's note: Make sure to watch the video to see what people recycled correctly and what they got wrong!
Patrick Morgan, a recycling specialist with Metro, helped us sort the pile. Clean cardboard, plastic bottles (minus the cap) and paper egg cartons went into the recyclables pile. A box from a frozen meal, a plastic take-out container (called a clamshell) and plastic sandwich bags were thrown into the garbage pile.
In the end, our pile of recyclables was much larger. That's good news. But there was also a sizable collection of plastic food containers, bags and dog poop that didn't belong in the blue recycling bins.
"We want to recycle. We want to recycle as much as possible but what is more important is recycling right," Morgan said.