Do You Even Recycle? Here's How to Recycle Properly in Puerto Rico

As I was observing a fourth grade English class, a girl who’d been drawing in her desk walked up to me and asked me whether the paper she held should go into the recycling bin or the trash can. I said that it needed to go into the recycling bin. I was correct! But it got me thinking. I was sure of my answer because I’d recently come across a brochure that was distributed among government employees of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico. In this brochure were the new specifications of materials that are accepted in Puerto Rico’s recycling program.

But, what about people who didn’t get that brochure? I thought about how we handle recycling and realized that no one is 100% sure about the materials they can recycle. This is a big problem.

Did you know that as recently as 2013, Puerto Rico was recycling only 9.66% of its waste? This is greatly due to not knowing what can be recycled or how it happens. Puerto Rico doesn’t recycle⎯⎯we just send things over to the US to be sold to other countries, which forces us to abide by the specifications that these countries set.

  1. 1. Plastics

    Ever notice the small numbers on the bottom of every plastic container? That number indicates the safety of the plastic⎯⎯how biodegradable it is, the toxic chemicals used in the plastic, and how likely the plastic is to leak said chemicals. As far as Puerto Rico is concerned, the government is only accepting plastics with a 1 and 2.

    So, next time you’re at the supermarket, make sure that whatever you buy in a plastic container is either a 1 or a 2, or you won’t be able to recycle it. Also, the plastic containers should not have any labels, caps, or residue left in them to be able to be recycled, which means that they should be rinsed whenever possible.

  2. 2. Aluminum

    As with plastics, make sure to rinse and leave no residue inside. Aluminum foil is not accepted!

  3. 3. Cardboard

    The only cardboard that will be accepted is corrugated cardboard. That means no pizza boxes, laundry detergent boxes or anything of the sort. Also, never throw greased up cardboard into the recycling bin! Any cardboard boxes that you recycle should, preferably, be flattened down or folded.

  4. 4. Newspapers

    Shoppers, magazines, and propaganda materials are not allowed. Phone books are also not allowed. Some newspapers are accepted. Check with your local government agency.

  5. 5. Paper

    The only paper that is allowed is white paper. Fantasy color paper, stock paper, pictures, envelopes, poster boards, binders, images, etc. will not be accepted.

  6. 6. Other Prohibited Items

    Sometimes its easier to remember what not to add! Styrofoam, Cans, Water Cooler Cups (the little cone), Coffee Cups, Aluminum Paper, Napkins or Paper Towels, Ziplocs or Plastic Bags, Glass Bottles, Glass, Electric Cables, Electronic Equipment, Ceramic, Window Glass, Waxed Cardboard, Juice Boxes, Milk Cartons, Paint Containers, Solvent Containers, Toys and Paper Wrappings.

    None of these things are allowed!

It’s important to be aware of the new specifications of the recycling program. You need to be aware of what you can start recycling as much as we think we are. If everyone does their part, we can help save our planet despite the limitations of our recycling system.