Are you tangling up the recycling process?

Think back to the last time you were unraveling tangled headphones, necklaces, or wires… remember the frustration that came up. Now consider that in the mix are turning metal gears and machinery bigger than you.

In the world of recycling, there is something called a tangler. A tangler is any item that can wrap around equipment at a recycling processing facility- putting both the workers and machinery at risk. Tanglers include, but are not limited to, plastic bags, plastic film, clothing, ropes, strands of lights, hoses, wires, chains, cords, and metal hangers.

Every day, individuals just like you, working at material recovery facilities (MRFs), spend up to eight hours removing “tanglers” from equipment (source: The Recycling Partnership). Not only does this create an unnecessary safety hazard for workers, but it also forces the MRFs to shut down, in turn, wasting time and energy that could be used to successfully recover material for recycling.

Tanglers end up in the recycling bin usually by good intentions in an act we call wish-cycling: when someone thinks that an item has material value and can be recycled into something different by putting it in their household recycling bin. However, due to the troubles that tanglers cause at the recycling facility, even if a tangler is made out of recyclable material, it does not belong in a household recycling bin. Wish-cycling leads to many issues along the recycling process:

  • Damaging equipment and recycling workers.
  • Slowing the recycling process and decreasing efficiency.
  • Increasing the cost of collecting and sorting the materials.
  • Decreasing the value and marketability of recyclables.

Let’s Recycle Right New York and #KnowBeforeYouThrow to help keep recycling facilities tangle-free!


Message and image courtesy of NYS DEC Recycle Right NY Campaign