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Frequent Misconceptions about Recycling in Erie County PA

  1. If Grocery Bags are recyclable, why can't I put them in my curbside recycling bin? 
    • Plastic grocery bags can get tangled in Single-Stream Sorting Equipment and require equipment shutdown in order to remove. Grocery Stores have collection bins for these types of bags.
  2. If my plastic bag, bottle, or container has a recycling symbol on it with a number, why is it not considered recyclable?
    • The recycling symbol and number on your plastic material refers to the type of plastic material. Although most plastics are recyclable, only certain ones are recoverable in your area. Depending on the type of Materials Recovery Facility, or recycling sorting facility, your curbside recycling is sent to, only a few plastic materials may be recovered from the recycling stream. In order to recover certain types of materials you need three things:
      1. Enough consumer disposals of a material. 
      2. A hauler and sorting who is able to collect, transport and then separate the material from the rest of the waste stream with limited contamination. 
      3. A company or vendor who is able to use that particular material in new products. 
    • If all three of these are not in place, a material cannot be recovered. 
  3. Why is Polystyrene (Also known as the brand Styrofoam) not accepted in my recycling bin? 
    • Similar to the answer above, some plastics are not acceptable in our curbside program based on the type of sorting equipment at our recycling facility. Styrofoam or polystyrene (#6 plastic) is not acceptable in our area because there is not a high demand from manufacturers to recycle and our sorting facility does not separate this type of plastic. 
  4. What is the "Two-Inch" rule?
    • In Recycling Sorting facilities that accept glass, the recyclable materials are passed along a glass crusher with holes that are about 2 inches by 2 inches. The crushed glass pieces fall through these openings and are sorted out of the waste stream. However, if there are other materials less than 2 inches by 2 inches, they can also fall through the openings and then contaminate the glass stream. These types of items include and should not be placed in your curbside bins: 
      1. Shredded paper or small paper pieces
      2. Bottle and container caps and lids
      3. Plastic utensils
  5. Can I recycle shredded paper in my curbside bin?
    • Relating to the Two-Inch rule mentioned above, shredded paper should not be placed in your curbside bin mixed with your other recyclable materials. Instead, shredded paper should be bagged separately in a transparent bag; this allows pre-sort employees at recycling sorting facilities to note that the bag is all shredded paper and remove it from the sorting system to be recycled separately. Shredded paper can wrap around equipment similar to plastic bags, or fall through the holes for glass. 
  6. Should I put the lid on my bottle or container to recycling or dispose of it in the trash?
    • At a sorting facility, all materials are crushed to decrease the volume. If there are lids on containers and the air is pushed out, the lid may fly off and hurt workers.
    • If you have a plastic bottle that you can crush to remove the air, then the cap or lid can be placed back on the bottle and recycled together. If you have a plastic container that cannot be crushed to remove the air, dispose of the cap in your trash. 
    • If you have a glass bottle or container and the lid is smaller than 2 inches by 2 inches, it should be removed and placed in your trash for disposal. (see more about the 2 inch rule above)
  7. Can I recycle pizza boxes?
    • Sort of. Pizza boxes can sometimes be contaminated with grease or cheese from your pizza. If the box is clean of food debris and grease, then yes, you can recycle it. Sometimes just the bottom has the grease stain; therefore you can rip the box in two and recycle the top if it is clean, and dispose of the bottom in your trash.
  8. Can I recycle yellow books?
    • Erie Energy Products will accept yellow books from December through February each year and turn them into insulation. 
    • Or you can break the yellow book into smaller sections by cutting the binding and recycle in your curbside bin. 
  9. Can we recycling reading books?
    • Hard back books should not be placed in your curbside bin, instead, remove the binding and hard cover to dispose of and place the papers of the book in your curbside recycling. 
    • Or, consider donating gently used books to any of the local charities in Erie.


For more facts about recycling, check out the Recycle Often. Recycle Right. website from Waste Management. 


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