Is your recycling tangling up the process?

We have all been there before – our necklaces have tangled themselves together, string or wires have stopped up our vacuum roller, our headphones become a knotted mess in our pocket.  Here we are, faced with the frustrating and time-consuming challenge of detangling something!    

What does this have to do with recycling? Imagine that same challenge and frustration on a much, much, much larger scale!

When items such as hoses, cords, wires, chains, ropes, and plastic bags are placed in a curbside recycling bin, people just like you and I are faced with the daunting challenge of detangling them from recycling processing equipment.

Every day, individuals working at material recovery facilities (MRFs), spend up to eight hours removing “tanglers” from equipment.  This creates an unnecessary safety hazard for workers and forces the MRFs to shut down, wasting time that could be used to successfully recover material for recycling.

You can discover more about how the recycling process works here.

What exactly is a “tangler”?

Tanglers are any item that can wrap around equipment at a recycling processing facility — this includes, but is not limited to, plastic bags, plastic film (think thin plastic wrap that you put around food or plastic that is put around plastic bottles to keep them together), clothing, ropes, strands of lights, hoses, wires, chains, blinds cords, and metal hangers.

Tanglers are a part of a longer list of recycling contaminates (items that cannot be recycled curbside, that are placed in the recycling bin).  Along with batteries, electronics, Styrofoam,  and food waste, tanglers are one of the worst culprits that can’t be recycled, but that people put in their curbside recycling.    

There is no way to be certain how these tanglers find their way into a curbside recycling bin, but one guess is “wish-cycling” — well-intentioned recycling that ends up creating more problems than solutions.

“Wish-cycling” often occurs when someone thinks an item, like a hose or metal chain, has value and can be made into something else through curbside recycling. There may be alternative locations where these items can be recycled or sent for reuse – always check your local recycling website for drop off sites for items that can be recycled. Otherwise, although you may wish you can, you cannot recycle your hose in your curbside recycling!

Simple steps to help.

Keep recycling equipment tangler-free and working properly by leaving plastic bags, plastic film, clothing, ropes, strands of lights, hoses, wires, chains, metal hangers, and other unaccepted materials out of your recycle bin.

Find the right location to take these materials for recycling or reuse.  Items such as plastic bags, film and wrap can be taken to retail drop-off locations to be recycled (take them back to your grocery store).  These locations do not have to sort the bags from other materials, avoiding the equipment needs and making recycling possible.

Scrap metal, such as those metal chains, can be taken to scrap metal recyclers, where they can be sent to become new car parts or appliances and not damage recycling processing equipment.

Clothing and textiles can be taken to your local thrift store to be reused, reducing waste and helping your local community.

Recycle the right items in your curbside bin as often as possible, keeping the recycling system healthy and alive.

Keep Out

  • Hose, cords, clothes   

Take to store

  • Plastic film and wrap
  • Batteries (there are also some drop-off locations for batteries and small electronics)

Donate

  • Clothes
  • Linens

Always recycle curbside

  • Bottles
  • Cans

Find out what can be recycled in your program here (this would link to time to recycle), place a recycling bin right next to your trash bin and keep it tangler-free!

Pretty sure you already know what to throw in your recycling bin? Check your recycling knowledge at our online quiz.