LANCASTER, Pa. -- Twenty to forty percent of all material put in recycling bins is actually trash.
“People thought, almost anything was recyclable," said Kathryn Sandoe, Chief Communications Officer at Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority.
If you are one to look under the container for the chasing arrows recycling symbol, 9 times out of ten, you're throwing the wrong material in the recycling bin.
"Just because that symbol is there, doesn’t actually mean something is recyclable,” said Sandoe.
Those symbols and corresponding numbers are just to clarify what is used to make that type of plastic.
“Well intentions. They were doing what we call wishful recycling,” said Sandoe.
Before the spring of 2018, not to say it was okay to throw whatever you thought was recyclable in the recycling.
It was never the United States' problem because everything was sold to China to separate and dispose.
Now, China, the United States' largest recycling buyer, no longer wants it.
“This is the place where all your single stream recyclables go, to be sorted and marketed. They (United States) lost, essentially their biggest costumer," said Sandoe.
What country would want to buy millions of pounds of, essentially, trash.
“China said we were done taking your trash, United States, now we’re faced with a crisis of how do we get back to recycling right, said Sandoe.
The new initiative Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority can help you decipher what's trash and what's recycling.
It's called the 'Big 4,' because there are just four items, only, to be recycled.
Those four items are corrugated cardboard, plastic bottles and jogs with necks, metal food and beverage cans and glass jars and bottles.
If you aren't exactly sure what needs to go in which bin, when in doubt, throw it out.
In Lancaster County, you do not have to worry about throwing material in the trash.
Trash in Lancaster County doesn't go to the landfill.
“People can have a since a ease when they go to put materials in the trash because it’s not going to go to a landfill. In Lancaster County, we take that trash, we combust it and we make electricity out of it,” said Sandoe.
That electricity powers 1 in 5 homes in Lancaster from your everyday household trash.
But, if you're still one to throw random items in the recycling, you could be costing yourself and neighbors money.
Paying a few more dollars a year for a sustainability fee, which in hindsight, is paying to have more sorters to sift through and pull out material that belongs in the trash.
To double check what's recyclable in your area or need to know drop off areas.
You can go to EARTH911.com, type in your zip-code and material and you will see a list of locations.