Last year, I had a friend move to Portland from out of state, and as I was helping her settle into the local culture, she had some questions about recycling. Some of these answers were straightforward, like “what goes in the yellow bin?” But other questions I was left answering with a bit of shrillness in my voice. Because I know how to recycle, right? I recycle every day. There’s no reason for me to be this unsure about a few questions from a friend.
That conversation prompted me to reflect more on my experience with recycling, and I realized: I know very little about the recycling process. In fact, what I’ve done is piece together a whole web of reasoning based on hearsay, sidelong looks from know-it-alls and accusatory internet listicles, instead of just looking up a cheat sheet from Metro or the City of Portland.
And I’m not alone. I’m so lucky to live in Portland and be surrounded by people who have good intentions to recycle, but in conversation, those same folks don’t seem confident in their choices. Are we all doing the right thing when we put the carton of Pacific Foods Chicken Broth in the blue bins?
I’m also lucky to work for a company that gives me time to dig into a topic and share my research. Last year, CK kicked off Food for Thought, an employee-driven lunch-and-learn series centered on sustainability and equity. And so far, it’s been a real hit. After the sessions, conversations continue in the kitchen, down the hall and in-between the afternoon meetings. I think it’s helped spark conversations that wouldn’t otherwise come up, but also reconnected us after two years in a mostly remote workstyle.
Here are my top 5 recycling tips that could come up in everyday life. Recycle with confidence, even if all our plastics end up in a landfill anyway.
- Recycling rules are based on the capabilities of local recycling centers and the safety of their employees. If a rule seems weird, there’s probably a good reason for it.
- No, a single paper clip is not going to ruin an entire batch of paper recycling.
- Do not recycle a used pizza box, even if the box says to do it. (If you are in Portland, put it in your green compost bin instead).
- Plastic bottle caps should be thrown away. Other cities work differently, so don’t bother arguing with your friends in California.
- Yes, you can recycle the Pacific Foods Chicken Broth soup cartons.