Recycling contamination occurs when people attempt to recycle unrecyclable materials or place items in the wrong recycling container. According to the National Waste and Recycling Association, roughly 25 percent of the items American’s try to recycle are contaminated. While it may seem relatively harmless toss a couple of unrecyclable items into a recycling bin, doing so can have serious consequences. From increasing waste to putting waste-management workers in danger, these are some of the main negative impacts of recycling contamination.
Most facilities don’t have the time or funds to individually separate each piece of unrecyclable material that enters their machines. All recycled materials enter the same recycling system. So, if some of the items in the bin aren’t recyclable, they could contaminate the entire load. As a result, huge quantities of previously recyclable materials may head off to a landfill due to the contamination.
Manufacturers do no design recycling equipment to process unrecyclable materials. As such, when unsuitable items end up in recycling bins, they could cause jams and damage the machinery. Not only does this slow the recycling process, but it can also be very costly as recycling facilities have to invest in repairing or completely replacing equipment.
Scrap recycling equipment can be dangerous if it isn’t working properly. As such, by recycling unrecyclable materials that may cause issues within the machinery, you could be putting workers at risk. Further, placing waste in recycling bins potentially exposes workers to dangerous chemicals or infectious diseases.
When unrecyclable materials wind up in recycling bins, the quality of recycled goods decreases. Decreasing the market value of these goods places a strain on the recycling industry which could increase the cost of service. Thus, making it more difficult for people to recycle in the future which will further harm our economy and planet.