The biggest recycling mistakes in your recycling bin

GRAYSLAKE, Ill. (WLS) -- The I-Team finds the mistakes in your recycle bins that could be contaminating the process and putting workers at risk. Many of these recycling mistakes can stop the conveyor belts and even injure workers.

ABC7 found the two biggest problems that recycling workers have with your collection habits!

"So this is all residential right here. We receive about five hundred tons of residential recycling and then this pile of here would be our commercial or business recycling we get in and we get in about 30 to 50 tons a day," said area director of Waste Management in Illinois, Tom Vujovi as he showed ABC 7 around the Grayslake recycling facility.

They are massive piles of products people gave to local recycling programs in our region. But not everything at the recycling facility will make the cut.

"25% of the stream is considered containment whether it's those plastic packaging pieces, organics, food, bowling balls sharp needles propane tanks but the boxes aren't containment, absolutely not" Vujovi said.

On Thursday the I-Team and the Chicago Sun Times uncovered the effects of more overnight deliveries on your cardboard footprint. Experts say consumers can help by breaking up cardboard boxes and removing the plastic inside before recycling.

Knowles: "So the plastic packaging is very hard to recycle?"

"That is correct, there are very few outlets for recycling the packaging that is within those boxes," Vujovi said.

The most common recycling blunder is turning in plastic shopping bags Vujovic pointed out.

"The plastic bags cause problems for us on an equipment perspective. If you look down here you'll see a lot of these shafts wrapped around with plastic and those plastic bags actually take away from the effectiveness of the equipment to really be able to sort out all of these containers that you're seeing right here and that's why we ask all these grocery bags that we're seeing in our stream for folks to take them back to the grocery market," Vujovi said.

RELATED: What can be recycled in Chicago?

And something else stopping the line every 20 minutes is needles. Most from home administered drugs.

"What we're looking at here is a drum full of needles. So residents are putting needles in the recycling bins assuming that they're recyclable and we then have to pull them off the line. We put our employees at risk, but we have to pull them out," Vujovi said.

After all of the sorting, recyclables end up packed in giant square bales to be shipped off and sold; however, many centers are looking for new recycling buyers because of recent restrictions implemented by China.

"China was the recipient of the worlds recyclables they put a ban in place making it effective January 2018 and they restricted the contamination rate. So for each bale that you see sitting here behind me it has to have less than .5% less than 1% contamination rate," said Director of Government and Public Affairs for Waste Management Lisa Disbrow.

You can help reduce the contamination rate by reaching out to your local city or recycling program and asking what can and can't be recycled.

We also have a video from the I-Team and the Chicago Sun Times, showing you what you can and can't recycle.

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Are you contaminating your recycling bins? The ABC 7 I-Team and The Chicago Sun Times are getting the answers to save you time.



Another common mistake is when people turn in pizza boxes. You can't recycle those because of the grease!
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