Recycling VS Trash VS Compost

Let’s talk trash!

Trash is something that will never be used again, for any purpose. Well other then to overflow our landfills. People all over the world are realizing the benefits of recycling, from getting 5¢-20¢ per container by depositing them, to simply feeling good about keeping a closed loop on production. Whatever motivates you to recycle please continue to do it, the city of Burlington and the earth will love you for it.

That’s old news though, right? Most people know about recycling and the benefits it has. However there is a ton of confusion about WHAT is actually recyclable. Some products like water bottles seem 100% recyclable when in fact the bottles cap is not. It gets incredibly tricky and misleading when only certain parts of a product are recyclable, which is why below, you will find a list of tips to help make recycling clear and easy.

Bigger than a yogurt lid?

A small yogurt lid is a good example of the minimum size something needs to be in order to be deemed recyclable. The true measurement is “2 inches in 2 directions” according to the Chittenden Solid Waste District. This is where items such as Gatorade and water bottle caps get ruled out.

The recycling bin never gets hungry, don’t give it food

Any organic matter such as food, drink, soil, etc is not recyclable and adds contaminants to plastic collection. This is where we ask for a little extra effort by the people of our city. Please rinse liquid containers such soda cans, milk jugs, and the occasional Heddy Topper before placing them in the recycling. The same goes for food, before you recycle that plastic ice cream cup, be sure to rinse the last bits out of there – and yes licking it really clean counts!

Beware of deceptive recycling! A cardboard pizza box for example – when it was unused sitting on a stack at the pizza shop, it was completely recyclable. However after it has been used it may have some grease soaked into the bottom, unfortunately makes that part of the pizza box trash. Tip: rip off the clean top and recycle that part!

So what can be composted?

You’ll be pleasantly surprised how many things can go into the compost! In addition to the obvious food scraps, you can also add soiled un-coated paper like used paper napkins, non-coated paper plates and wood stirrers. But be careful! Not all paper goods can go into the compost! Many plates and disposable food dishes are coated with plastic! If you’re not sure whether the product is compostable, put it in the trash. Check to see if that that plastic cup or fork you’re using is made of compostable vegetable-based plastic! Most will say it, so look for the words or the BPI symbol.

Which container do I put it in?

Photo courtesy of CSWD

At every park, beach, bike path and heavily populated area in Burlington, you will find a trash and recycling bin. Compost bins are also becoming more available throughout the city. At many of our events, we try to make it as easy as possible to know where to put your food, plate, and cup when discarding your items. When you approach one of the receptacles you will find signage and graphics repressing what belongs in which bin. Take a few seconds to review them before pitching your trash.

I just want someone to tell me what bin to put it in!

Well lucky you! At many of the events in Burlington you will find Waste Warriors. This group of volunteers are stationed right by the waste bins, answering any questions you may have regarding where you should place your items.

What are those big trash and recycling bins around the city?

As you walk through Burlington you will notice several of the Big Belly receptacles. Inside each of these, is a solar powered trash compacter that increases the storage capacity of the bins by up to 5 times according to Big Belly. They also notify public works when they are almost full and ready to be picked up. In turn it minimizes the amount of garbage truck runs, reducing our carbon footprint. There will also be less litter and overflow due to the enclosed nature of the bin, each of these things lead to a greener Burlington.


For more info about what goes in what bin, check out Chittenden Solid Waste District’s handy A-Z Guide!