We once felt satisfied to follow the arrow to recycle plastics, but the Chinese facilities put a stop to our dirty plastics. Now we pile tubs and bottles in the garage, in hopes that someone will take them through periodic collection events at Hilyard Community Center or at Garten Services, which takes #1 plastics by appointment at 2345 W. Broadway. All items must be sparkling clean, as food and soap residue interfere with processing.

At just 4% of the world’s population, the U.S. produces 12% of the world’s waste, or 1,700 pounds per person per year. If we’re serious about keeping a small portion of our trash out of the landfill, it can’t be almost clean—it must be, again, sparkling clean. The grease and cheese from a pizza box may contaminate an entire conveyor belt of paper. This applies to milk jugs, clear drink bottles (the only plastics currently allowed in our big blue bins), and tin cans.

Deli boxes and clam shells cannot be recycled. Consider steering clear of them (styrofoam deli containers, never!) and leaving a note at Costco, the grocery store, or your favorite take-out to recommend cardboard. Avoid single-use plastic water bottles.

Finally, because it’s worth our time to limit what goes in the landfill, place food waste in your yard bin, where it’s composted for good use. In the anaerobic environs of the landfill, organic material produces methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas.