Zero Waste Team & LAHS Eco Club: Recycle correctly


From the Zero Waste team and Eco Club LAHS:

ZTip for ero waste: Download the Cycle Coach app to learn simple tips on how to recycle properly! However, if you are unsure whether an item can be recycled or not, throw it out. If in doubt, throw it out.

There are many dedicated recyclers in our community. Recycling is important, but recycling properly is not always easy. The little “recycling triangle” with the number in the middle does not mean that the product is recyclable, rather it indicates what type of plastic the item is made of. The recycling triangle is a mandatory feature on products, but can be very confusing for consumers and avid recyclers.

The Recycle Coach app is a free and easy way for Los Alamos residents to find out if something is recyclable or not. Simply download the app on your smartphone and type in the item you are interested in. Remember, when in doubt throw it out! If you are not sure whether an item can be recycled, it is best to throw it away. Wishcycling contributes a lot of contamination to recycling streams and can ruin a batch of otherwise recyclable materials

The most important thing to remember when recycling is to make sure the item is: Empty, clean, and dry. A plastic container with juice, milk, or laundry soap is dirty and can spill onto other clean objects like paper and can contaminate the entire trash, making it a trash can. A quick “rinse and agitation” should do most things; you don’t need to use a lot of water to clean things.


Almost all metal is recyclable and should be recycled! Recycling an aluminum can, for example, is 95% more efficient than making an aluminum can from virgin metal. The savings come from not having to extract the metal from the ore and not needing energy to melt it. Another great quality of aluminum is that it can be recycled FOREVER, without losing its integrity, which means it can be recycled indefinitely into a high quality product.


Glass is not as efficient at recycling as metal, but it is the second “best” thing to recycle. The shortage of sand for the production of glass makes the recycling of this material even more important. Recycling glass saves huge amounts of energy, resources and landfill space. Glass should be taken to the Eco Station, Overlook Collection Center, Lemon Lot, or Los Alamos Co-op and placed in the glass recycling bins.


About 70 to 80% of all paper in the United States is recycled. Most clean papers can be put in your recycling bin. If it has large amounts of paint or craft materials or glitter in it, it’s best to throw it away. The recycled paper market value is based on the length of the fibers. Corrugated cardboard, for example, has the highest value in the recycling market because it can be reused for the longest time. Tissue paper, paper towels, handkerchief and toilet paper are not recyclable due to their very short staple length (but they often get soiled and it’s just gross!). Wrapping paper is recyclable if it does not have a metallic coating or glitter.


Plastic is the most difficult material to recycle because there are many different types of plastic that have varying degrees of reuse. Melting a plastic soda bottle doesn’t just create a new soda bottle like it would with an aluminum can. Plastic films (the thin packaging on the outside of most packaging) cannot be recycled and cannot go in the blue recycling cart. Soft film plastics are those that you can stick your finger in like a grocery bag or other plastic bags that make bread or tortillas. These plastics can be recycled at Smith’s and Walmart. Recycling bins are usually located near the main entrances. Full plastic bubble envelopes can also be recycled in special grocery bins at the front of the store, but not in the blue recycling cart. All plastic containers should be empty, clean and dry. Lids can attach to bottles, jugs, and jars, but throwing them separately in your cart can jam sorting machines. Avoid “nesting” containers inside other containers.


Cardboard is just as important to recycle as metal and glass, it is a very valuable product. Clean, non-greasy cardboard can be recycled in the blue recycling cart. However, since e-commerce is the new way to shop and cardboard is plentiful, Los Alamos County has several cardboard recycling dumpsters conveniently located throughout the community.

A final reminder to summarize a few dos and don’ts:

  • DO recycle: empty, clean and dry metal, plastic and paper.
  • DO NOT recycle: glass, bags or bagged recyclables (with the ONLY exception of shredded paper), polystyrene foam, pizza boxes, garbage and tangles (garden hoses, extension cords).

For more information, see the Los Alamos County Environmental Department webpage at Direct your questions or concerns to Environmental Services at 505.662.8163 or [email protected].


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