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Reggie the Recycling Raccoon says: Let’s talk more about more paper and cardboard recycling

Reggie the Recycling Raccoon.
Reggie the Recycling Raccoon.

(Chelsea Update would like to thank Frank Hammer and the Western Washtenaw Recycling Authority for the information in this column.)

Sometimes it is hard to tell if something is paper, which can be recycled, or something else, which can’t.

Here is the basic guideline:  If you can tear it, it is paper. For example, the shiny plastic wrapping “paper” that has been more common in recent years. It actually is plastic and cannot be recycled. Though some ultra-thin plastics can tear, they don’t tear like paper.

By contrast, the shiny cover on a new book is actually paper, and tears like paper.  Think of it this way:  “Tear, if you care.”

With that little saying in mind, think about the following:
Envelopes with plastic windows or tape can be recycled. It is mostly paper, and can be easily torn. However, paper that has been laminated cannot be recycled.

The yellowish mailing envelopes can be recycled. If it is padded, though, check to see if the padding is fluffy fibers or bubble pack. Thumbs up for fluffy, thumbs down for the bubble pack.  Again, try tearing it—“Tear, if you care.”

The white and brown “bumpy” take home containers, and some egg cartons, are actually high-density paper/cardboard and can be recycled. (Please rinse out loose food first.) They tear, rather than break up like Styrofoam.

Shredded office paper can be recycled. But, please do not just throw in the bins or curbside containers, even in brown paper bags or plastic shopping bags. When the bag breaks, the shredded paper explodes everywhere and much of it falls into the broken glass bin. This is a double problem, as it contaminates the glass, and then the whole batch–paper and glass– has to be land-filled.

If you have shredded paper, especially a lot of it, please place it in securely closed clear plastic bags so our crew can see it and separate it out for real recycling. Or drop the bag off directly at the Werkner Road facility. That’s what Reggie does.

Some people ask whether “cardboard” that is not brown can be recycled. The answer is absolutely. The gray cardboard from a pad of note paper, the thin boxes that a product may be sold in, manila filing folders, poster board (but not the Styrofoam board), the white USPS shipping containers, Fedex shipping containers and even political signs printed on cardboard are fully recyclable.

But watch out—Some newer political signs are made of plastic that cannot be recycled. There was a time that milk cartons and juice boxes could not be recycled because of the wax. That has changed, though, because the companies have reduced the amount of wax and because recycling technology has improved.

Hanging file folders are recyclable but Reggie asks you to first pull out the metal or plastic handing bars, before putting them all in the recycle bin. Postcards, celebration cards and even playing cards are recyclable.

Speaking of cardboard—Reggie loves getting brown paper grocery bags, because they are actually important. Those paper bags have long fibers in them and they assist with processing recycled cardboard.

So—next time you are asked “paper or plastic,” say paper and recycle it.

Reggie Raccoon’s Royal Recycling Review:

  • Recycling puts materials back into use; trash is for things that cannot be used again.
  • Flexible plastic of all kinds go in the trash, not in the recycling bins.
  • Styrofoam and Polystyrene are good for packaging, but have to go to the trash.
  • Plastics 1 and 2 can live anew, but 3 to 8 just don’t rate.
  • Most other plastics are recyclable—but never foam rubber, garden hoses, or flexibles.
  • Be a recycling consumer. Let businesses know you want recyclable containers and thank those establishments that provide them.
  • Please save a tree by recycling all your paper, including junk mail and cardboard.
  • All plastic bags can now go back to their source — participating grocery stores.
  • When it comes to paper  “Tear, if you care.”


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