A careless mistake can cost a recycling facility thousands of dollars to fix.

Recycling Bin
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Raise your hand if you've been here: You return from the recycling bins, only to realize you definitely, accidentally put a trash item in the paper bin or a newspaper with your plastic bottles. What happens next, you wonder?

Isabelle Tavares for Reader's Digest recently broke it down: "The most common items are paper, cardboard, metal cans, plastic bottles, and jugs that are separated at pre-sort. This is where employees pick through obvious materials—like engines, concrete blocks, or yard waste—that could cause catastrophic damage to machines and cost thousands of dollars to repair." After everything gets sorted by the size of items, "all recycling goes to a magnetic separator and then the residual material goes to the landfill," Jeremy Walters, community relations manager at Republic Services, a non-hazardous waste collection company in the U.S., told Reader's Digest.

Sometimes, if you recycle something that you're not sure is recyclable, it can have a costly effect on recycling operations so it may be simply best to toss it with your trash. Reader's Digest cites the example of an unwashed pasta sauce jar which can result in a situation in which the jar contaminates other items. Another takeaway from the piece is that the practice of tossing your recyclable items inside a plastic bag is a big no-no, as a plastic bag can get caught in machinery and cost $10,000+ to fix. Read the full article here.

If you're looking to be better about your recycling efforts, consider the "reduce and reuse" ethos, a helpful guideline that reminds you to reduce what you buy and reuse items (like glass jars or cardboard boxes) whenever possible. Planting your own vegetable garden is another great way to cut back on waste as produce can often be shipped from afar and/or wrapped in materials like plastic and Styrofoam. If you think creatively, you may be amazed at how much you can reduce your environmental footprint. You can even recycle gift wrap, ladies and gents. For more recycling ideas, check out these helpful tips on AmericaRecyclesDay.org.

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Well, now that we've learned more about the recycling process, we certainly want to be more mindful of how we handle recycling in our own house. What's your favorite tip to be a friend to our planet?