Why Source Separated Recycling is Best

Recycling may seem fairly straightforward; we know it’s important, and we’re very capable of the basic action of taking our recyclables and putting them into the designated container. However, there can be additional nuances to the recycling stream process that can affect the contamination of the recyclables, and the amount of them that are able to be actually broken down for reuse.

There are three primary ways of sorting recycling, all with their own benefits and drawbacks. These three methods are all-in-one recycling, single stream recycling, and source separated recycling. All-in-one recycling involves all waste, both trash and recyclables, being put in one container to be collected. Single stream recycling involves the trash and recycling being separated into different containers, but all types of recycling still being placed together. Source separated recycling, on the other hand, involves separating the recyclable materials by type when discarding them. This can be two separate recycling types, like paper and plastic being sorted separately, or several by material, placing cardboard and paper together, plastic in its own container, and glass again in its own container.Of these three methods, source separated recycling is the best for reducing contamination, increasing the positive environmental effects, and ensuring you and the planet both get the most out of your recycling efforts.

Here’s why: All-in-one recycling comes with an incredibly high risk of contamination that can prevent materials from being recycled that otherwise would be. Single-stream recycling is better due to the separation from things like food waste, but there’s still a variety of issues associated with single-stream recycling; different types of containers can cross-contaminate each other, small pieces of other recyclables can be hidden among paper recycling even after being organized at a sorting facility and cause problems at paper mills, and the material quality has been shown to lessen with single-stream recycling. Source separated recycling is shown to be the best choice to make recycling easier and lessen the chances of contamination, even though it takes a bit more effort at the time of discarding your recyclables. Source separated recycling demonstrably results in lower contamination and a higher number of recyclable materials reaching their final destinations.

Source separated recycling is already the best option, but with ZipEco’s recycling and waste collection program, the results can be even better. A waste audit we participated in showed that, statistically, about 60% of all recycled material is deemed contaminated and sent to landfilled, leaving only around 40% to be actually recycled. Our work brings the number of actually recycled material up to 85-90%, which leads to a huge improvement in the amount that recycling helps the environment and your local community!