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Recycling: Know what to throw

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Recycling is good for your conscience and good for the planet, but it’s not always easy.

Pizza boxes spring to mind. They’re cardboard, and that’s recyclable, right?

Wrong. It’s dirty cardboard, with grease soaked through the bottom layer of the box and – in most cases – little tidbits of fused cheese, crust morsels and topping residue clinging to the inside.

The pizza box is trash.

But the confusion doesn’t stop at pizza boxes, so the Rio Grande Recycling Corridor — a group comprised of recycling and solid waste agencies from Las Cruces to Santa Fe — has launched a statewide recycling education campaign geared to teach New Mexicans how to recycle correctly.

“There are many misconceptions about what can and can’t be recycled, and there is a view that it is difficult,” said Patrick Peck, director of South Central Solid Waste Authority. “Our goal is to set the record straight. Recycling right is simple, and with a few easy tips, every New Mexican can ensure they’re doing their part to recycle the right materials.”

Peck has been in the solid-waste industry for decades and is sought-after for his protocols and experience.

According to a press release, the “Know What to Throw New Mexico” campaign aims to combat the most pressing issues found across the state, including eliminating food waste and plastic bags from blue bins.

Three basic rules can help serious recyclers contribute to the solution rather than remain lost in recycling purgatory, not knowing what to do with what materials.

Rule 1: Empty, clean and dry items get recycled. Food residue and liquids should be rinsed from containers before recycling. Dirty materials are not recyclable and can create costly errors in the process.

Rule 2: Loose items get recycled. Don’t bag your recyclables, and don’t put cords or bands around them, as they can disable the sorting machinery. Plastic bags and plastic wrap should never be placed in the blue recycle bins. All items should be loose.

Rule 3: Know what to throw for your area. According to RecycleNewMexico.com, the South Central Solid Waste Authority accepts clean aluminum and cat-food cans, tin cans, empty and flattened boxes, brown paper bags, books, juice boxes, milk cartons, office paper, magazines, newspaper, uncorrugated cartons, phone books, grocery bags, plastic bottles and jars, rigid plastics and most cardboard.

If you’re willing to haul recyclables to SCSWA facilities, they also accept glass, appliances, electronic devices and yard trimmings.

If you have friends and neighbors outside the Las Cruces area, encourage them to visit RecycleNewMexico.com for details specific to their communities.

“As important as it is for people to recycle, it’s even more important for them to recycle right,” said Sarah Pierpont, executive director of the New Mexico Recycling Coalition. “It’s our hope that, through this campaign, New Mexicans will not only be educated, but also inspired to do what they can for their environment and their communities.” 

This article was adapted from a press release.

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