Compost, Recycle, or Trash It? Here's How to Know the Difference

There are countless proactive ways to take better care of the planet, and learning how to properly compost, recycle, and discard garbage is a great place to start. Knowing the difference between each practice can be confusing, but we're here to break it down for you. So, what does it mean if something is compostable, biodegradable, recyclable, or just plain trash? We investigated.

How to Know When Something Is Compostable

If a container claims to be compostable (which, by the way, is not to be confused with biodegradable materials), this means it can break down to become a pile of nutrient-rich soil. This process is beneficial to the environment because compostable goods are great for fertilizing soil and don't leave behind toxic residue. If the item you are discarding is a plant or part of a plant (vegetable scraps, fruit peels, grains, tea leaves, coffee grounds, etc.), if it was made from plants, or if it's an egg shell, it's compostable. While compostable products are all biodegradable, they are specifically intended for a composting environment.

How to Know When Something Is Biodegradable

The term biodegradable refers to a material's ability to break down and return back to nature. In order for something to be biodegradable, it must be able to completely break down and decompose into natural elements in about a year or less. A few examples of biodegradable products are paper towels, notebooks, cardboard boxes, newspapers, and paper plates and cups.

How to Know When Something Is Recyclable

A recyclable product is usually one of the following: glass, paper, metal, or plastic-based. These materials are made so that they can be broken down and made into another useable product. If the item is clean paper, plastic, glass, or metal and has a recycling logo, toss it into the recycling bin. Note: be sure to clean each item first because some items can't be recycled even though they're made of recyclable material (read: greasy pizza boxes).

How to Know When Something Is Trash

If the item you have doesn't fit the bill for any of the previous options, then it's garbage. It's best not to recycle anything you have doubts about since recycling machines are designed only to handle certain kinds of materials. Any non-biodegradable and non-recyclable waste goes to trash, which then goes to landfills. Since landfills are filling up, it's important to discard your items appropriately so anything that doesn't belong in a landfill doesn't end up there.

How to Be More Sustainable

Knowing how to properly dispose of trash is a great place to start. You can help lower the amount of things that go into landfills while also supporting soil growth, creating more reusable products, and reducing your carbon footprint. You can also bring reusable bags with you when you go shopping, you can use a reusable water bottle to cut down on the number of plastic and paper cups you use, and you can inform others on how to be more eco-friendly. These small changes have the ability to make a big difference in taking better care of the place we call home.