how do I recycle this?
April 16, 2018 9:00 AM   Subscribe

Or, is it even recyclable?

I used to buy cat litter sand that came in a 25 lb plastic bag specifically marked as recyclable and then, when the bag was empty, I'd make sure no residual sand was in the bottom and then put the bag out with my other recyclables.

I have recently switched to a different brand of cat sand that comes packaged in those square-shaped cardboard boxes. When the box is empty, I am unclear as to how to dispose of it. Typically with cardboard boxes (like, from Amazon shipments and the like), I break them down/flatten them and then put them out in the dumpster that my building has allocated for recycling. Breaking down a cat sand cardboard box is not as straightforward, plus there is the question of the plastic handle on top - I can't find anything that clarifies whether that plastic is recyclable.

Cat-owners of AskMe: if your cat sand comes in such a box, how do you dispose of it when it is empty? I want to do the right thing here but I'm not sure how.

posted by thereemix to Pets & Animals (8 answers total)
This is not a direct answer but often recycling programs have a phone number you can call to ask questions like this. In my experience, they are thrilled when people care enough to call and talk to them.
posted by carolr at 9:05 AM on April 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

The big question with recyclable materials isn't the materials themselves, but whether your recycler can process them, and in what form. For example, mine can take soft plastic (bags and such), but only through separate processing streams from their usual all-together recycling stream. Bags gum up the works for their system, and they have to shut down the processing line to remove them.

Mixed materials are tricky, with different recyclers able to process some kinds but not others. Check with yours; if they don't cover this on their website they'll be able to answer the question by phone or email.
posted by asperity at 9:09 AM on April 16, 2018

I put these boxes in my recycle bin. If I'm feeling fancy I stomp them (outside, because there is always a little bit of litter caught in the corners of the box that comes out) until they're as flat as I can get them and cut off that plastic handle with a razor blade. Sometimes I just put them in my bin without flattening or removing the handle, if I'm feeling lazy and I have the space to spare. If I had to use a shared dumpster, I would always stomp them flat. (I tried cutting them up with a box cutter once, and that was much more difficult and dangerous than stomping.)
posted by Secretariat at 9:32 AM on April 16, 2018

Regarding the handle- my assumption would be that the plastic handle strap is not recyclable. I have not inquired with my local recycling provider to find out how much of a problem I could be causing by leaving it on- it seems pretty small to me, and it's not soft like a plastic bag. But this would be a good question to ask, and one I'm sure they'd be happy to answer! I'm one of those people who figures it's better that I put my "close enough" recycling in the bin rather than throwing away the entire cardboard box because I can't figure out what to do with the handle. Who knows, maybe that makes me part of the problem?
posted by Secretariat at 9:37 AM on April 16, 2018

What does the recycling system for your town look like? In my town, I would rip off the handle and put it with the mixed plastics and metals, and then stomp the cardboard box and put it either with the mixed paper (if it's not corrugated) or with the corrugated cardboard (if it is). What your recycling streams look like will determine what you have to do.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:16 AM on April 16, 2018

Can you remove the plastic handle while breaking down the box? If yes, problem solved.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 12:52 PM on April 16, 2018

For some unknown reason, I find great satisfaction in taking apart boxes like that.... deconstructing the world.... and I recycle litter boxes by flattening them out/cutting apart and removing the handle. Try it; it's great fun! Plus, it takes up less room in the recycles.

Or, you can cut off the top and use the bottom part as both a recycle and a recyclable container for other recyclables.
posted by mightshould at 8:45 AM on April 17, 2018

The only one who can answer this is the jurisdiction that manages your recycling program, which would normally be a city or county in the US. The recycling logo is meaningless - it's an industry code that has nothing to do with what your local recycler can a) collect a lot of, b) separate from other materials in an efficient way, and c) find a market for. Someone has to be able to turn this stuff into new products. This all varies across space and time.

If you put something in the recycling bin that the recycler can't turn around and sell to someone else, you are just turning your trash into their trash and wasting their typically scant resources in the process.
posted by look busy at 10:43 AM on April 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

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