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To Recycle Or Not: Connecticut Issues New Universal List Of Recyclable Items

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What goes in your recycling bin can be confusing. Now, the state is trying to clear up some confusion by putting out a new universal list. It’s part of a campaign called “What’s In. What’s Out.”

Plastic bottle caps are out -- unless they’re connected to the bottle. Those little black and green pots for plants? They’re in -- if you can fit them in the bin.

Then there are pizza boxes. They’re good to recycle, even if greasy, said Sherill Baldwin with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

“Do they want your crust? Definitely not. Do they want food in it? No,” Baldwin said. “They are asking that we pull out the liner -- whether it be cardboard or paper -- but doesn’t matter how much grease is in it, just throw it in your recycling bin.”

What you do not want to throw in, said Baldwin, are plastic shopping bags.

“Plastic bags, plastic wrap,” Baldwin said, “are a huge problem. They take so much time and effort for the staff to pull out and it often causes safety concerns.”

Instead recycle those bags back at the retailer where you got them. Baldwin said don’t recycle shredded paper, either.

“Good rule of thumb is only shred what you need to shred,” Baldwin said. Everything else -- in terms of junk mail or other types of correspondence -- if it’s not needed to be shredded, she said, don’t, so that you can recycle it.

And what about all those confusing numbers on your plastics?

Baldwin says it’s simple. Ignore them. They’re for recyclers -- not residents. Instead, she says ask yourself: is it a bottle, a jug, or a carton?

“All of those plastic containers can be put in the recycling bin,” she said.

The new program is voluntary and it’s up to the towns and cities to implement the new guide. Confused residents can check what’s in and out on using the search tool on the state’s website.

Baldwin said residents should start using the new universal list now because cleaner recycling streams help both customers and haulers.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached by phone at 860-275-7297 or by email: pskahill@ctpublic.org.
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