Making small and simple recyclable changes on Earth Day and beyond

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Finding ways to recycle our everyday products and food items can sometimes be easy and hard. Some product can be recycled, and sometimes they can be thrown away.

Paper, cardboard, plastic, and other materials are recyclable, but among these, which one is the hardest to recycle?

"I think plastic trips people up the most because a lot of things are made from plastic, as we’ve seen over the years. More and more packaging and containers are made of plastic, said Axtell. So there are just more choices to make when it comes to plastic, and I think that is the confusing part." AJ Axtell is an Environmental Program Coordinator for the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District.

If you are still unsure, Axtell says remember this one rule of thumb. "If you really stay simple and just remember to recycle bottles, tubes, jugs, jars, and lids, you should have any problems."

According to Consumer Reports, The Environmental Protection Agency says just 8.7 percent of plastic discarded in the U.S. in 2018 was recycled.

Related Story: The Big Problem with Plastic

In the city, we wanted to know how much plastic we recycle. "In Minnesota and Duluth is reflected in that. Were number three in the nation in terms of our recycling efforts, so we do a great job! And what that means is with all that is thrown away. About fifty percent is recycled, stated Axtell. Now, of those things that end up in landfills. It is true, some of those things could have been recycled; so we have some room to grow. But the bottom line is many things are just trash, and that’s okay. They need to be thrown away, we used them, and we need to throw them away."

Besides recycling plastic, people like to recycle those pizza boxes, but some of them should go in the trash. "The fact is that it can not be recycled, it would muck up the process a little bit. So, we try to keep that material out. If you have a pizza box that is gleaming clean, and you know the chess didn’t leak. If it has parchment under the paper, it is going to be just fine," says Axtell.