It's time for some trash talk: How are the recycling habits of your tenants? If your garbage container area is looking like, well, a dump, a recycling chart can help save the day -- not to mention Mother Earth.
What is a recycling chart?
A recycling chart is a diagram or bulleted list of items that should or should not be recycled. While recycling has become second nature to many people, it's not always easy to remember what goes where on trash day.
Even if you've got tenants who are composting their own household scraps, it's not fair to leave the rules of recycling to anyone's memory. Even well-meaning people have been known to toss a recyclable into the trash bin by mistake. Plus, not all states have the same recycling rules. If you've got new tenants who just moved to town from another state, a recycling chart will help them get acclimated to local laws.
To avoid sending more trash to the landfill -- and getting hit by potential fines from your town or city -- a recycling chart will put all those disposal guidelines in one place for easy reference.
What does a recycling chart template include?
You don't have to earn a degree in environmental studies to ensure an efficient recycling program in your building or at your property. And there's no need to start from scratch with your recycling chart, either. Below is a recycling chart template to get you started. You can adapt accordingly, but the following are some of the basics that should be included on your chart:
- Items that should be recycled.
- Items that should not be recycled.
- How to properly dispose of all trash.
- The location of other trash and recycling bins, if applicable.
- The schedule of pickup days.
- A phone number/email for assistance/questions.
For best results with recycling, post charts in various places as reminders to your tenants. It's also a good idea to distribute charts directly to tenants to keep in their individual units so they can sort recyclables accordingly before discarding trash.
What you can recycle?
This is the first thing tenants will look at on a recycling chart, so make sure items are clearly designated.
For the most part, paper and cardboard are kept in their own recycling bin while plastic, metal, and glass are kept in theirs. Here's a breakdown of each category of recyclables:
- Aluminum, tin, or steel cans.
- Pie tins.
- Plastic bottles and containers (all but those marked #6).
- Juice and milk containers (they contain plastic).
- Plastic rings on soda cans.
Paper and cardboard
- Cardboard boxes (must be flattened).
- Cereal boxes.
- Mail, including magazines, catalogs, and junk mail.
- Paper towel/toilet paper rolls.
- Telephone books.
- Paper bags.
- Printer paper and file folders.
- Wrapping paper, greeting cards, and stationery.
What you can't recycle
It's important to be even clearer with this list, because if people don't see their item on the list, they may toss it into the recycling bin by default.
Here are items that might appear recyclable but should instead be put in the regular trash:
- Clothes and linens (If still usable, these should be donated. Consider including a number or website of a local charity for collection.).
- Clothing hangers (plastic or metal).
- Polystyrene or styrofoam (marked #6).
- Feminine products.
- Construction debris (including bricks, wood, and cement).
- Paint/spray paint cans.
- Hard plastic reusable bottles (sports bottles).
- Plastic shopping bags*.
- Any plastics without numbers, including toothbrushes, toys, garden hoses, cereal box liners, etc.
*Some states have banned usage. Otherwise, you can return them to the store for recycling.
If you want to get more in-depth with your recycling chart, here's some additional information about recyclables to include:
How clean do the plastics and bottles have to be?
While clean containers are easier to recycle, don't waste gallons of water washing plastics or glass heading to the recycling bin. Give things a good rinse -- this will help combat odors, too -- and get it ready for recycling.
What about the arrows and numbers on plastics?
The cyclical arrows of the recycling symbol have been ingrained in our brains for years, but the numbers 1 through 7 that are marked on plastics are a different story.
Consider the numbers code to determine which plastics are made of recyclable materials and which aren't. Here's how to crack that code for proper waste disposal:
Note that some items are listed multiple times; this is because different materials may be used to make them.
- Most beverage bottles, food containers (including some peanut butter jars), and some detergent/cleanser containers.
The verdict: Yes, you can put these in the recycle bin.
- Milk and water jugs, some detergent containers, shampoo bottles, and motor oil containers.
The verdict: Yes, you can put these in the recycle bin.
- Food packaging, some detergents (including window cleaners), cooking oil containers, and some peanut butter jars.
The verdict: #3 plastics are often made of PVC, which is not only hard to recycle but has harmful chemicals and carcinogens. Toss in the regular trash.
- Bags for bread and frozen food, plastic wraps, and some bottles.
The verdict: While #4 plastics are not associated with health issues, they are not usually recycled. Toss in the regular trash.
- Syrup, yogurt, and margarine containers, disposable diapers, outdoor rugs, and clouded plastics like baby bottles and straws.
The verdict: While #5 plastics are not associated with health issues, they are difficult to recycle. Toss in the regular trash.
- CD covers, plastic cutlery, and styrofoam, including egg cartons, food containers, and packaging peanuts.
The verdict: Very expensive to recycle; reuse if possible or toss in the regular trash.
- Lids, medical containers, electronics, most baby bottles and cups, sports bottles, and five-gallon water jugs.
The verdict: These products are made from mixed resin and are nearly impossible to recycle. Medical sharps can be disposed of at a hospital or doctor's office. Consider donating electronics if they are still in working order, or take them to a retailer with a recycling program. For everything else, toss in the regular trash.
While 1 and 2 are the likely suspects for recycling, this is where state and local laws come into play. You'll need to check with your local recycling program to see which, if any, other numbers on the list are worthy of the blue bin and which go into the regular waste bin.
The bottom line
A recycling chart can help your tenants get on the same page -- literally -- with recycling. Not only will your trash disposal area be more organized for pickup day, but you'll also keep Mother Earth happy every day.
Free recycling best practices template
I won't keep you waiting any longer. Here's a free template on recycling best practices you can use from our partners, Avail. Like all templates, this is only a starting point and probably needs some customization. As such, we strongly encourage you to contact a real estate lawyer if you have questions about this template and whether it is right for you.
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