'You have a huge impact': How you can recycle the right way

What you put in your recycling bin matters more than you think. 

Daniel Gallagher, Hillsborough County's recycling coordinator, said recycling incorrectly contaminates and ruins the whole load for the rest of your neighbors. He said it can cost the county and you money. 

For example, the triangle arrow symbols that you see on bottles and other products do not necessarily mean it's recyclable. 

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"Those are plastic resin codes. Basically everything made out of plastic has a resin code," explained Gallagher. "That code does not tell you if it's recyclable. It only tells you about the type of plastic it's made out of. In general, we target the shape we don't look at the code at all,"

So what is okay to recycle? It can depend on your municipality. 

"Every county basically takes paper. Plastic bottles, like a water bottle, Gatorade bottle, even these types of jars and jugs like a milk jug and water jug we readily accept," Gallagher said. "Hillsborough County does accept lids on top of bottles, but most municipalities do not. Hillsborough County also takes plastic containers as you can see it's completely empty, completely dry no liners or anything inside of it. We also take glass. Not every county and city takes glass. Metal tin cans, aluminum cans, completely empty and dry, you can readily recycle."

Also, you should clean your recycled items before they go in the bin.

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"Recyclables need to be clean, empty and dry because we don't want to contaminate the load," Gallahgher said. "A stained peanut butter jar, a full water bottle that can contaminate clean recyclables."

Plastic bag and bag recycling can damage the machines and can contaminate the system. Make sure you take these all out and make sure the recyclables are loose in the cart.

Styrofoam and foam products are also a huge issue. A lot of people think these are recyclable, because they're plastic, but it's not one of the accepted plastics. 

Plastic forks and straws and film packaging all are made out of plastic, but are not recyclable. Do not throw the lids separately in the cart. 

Gallagher also said no batteries should ever end up in the recycling bin. He also said to make sure you break down boxes, explaining, "it actually can wedge inside the recycling cart."

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Also, avoid putting items in there that can easily get tangled.

"Just like plastic bags, tanglers are such a huge issue like string lights, T-shirts, hangers, ropes, cords, wires," Gallagher said. "They all can wrap around the machines. If it can wrap around your arm. It can wrap around our machine."

If you recycle the right way you'll see the payoff.

"Reducing your waste can actually save you a ton of money," Gallagher said. "Water bottles can be recycled into new water bottles, into even T-shirts. Most soda cans are recycled right back into the same can in a matter of eight weeks. You could be drinking from the same exact soda can. Glass, most glasses are recycled right back into new glass jars and bottles but can even be as road base or concrete construction, so it's really cool, the different creativity that the industry has been able to come up with."said Gallagher.

For more information about recycling, visit tampabayrecycles.org.