Sustainability Tip: Sorting your recyclables properly means protecting the workers that sort them |

Sustainability Tip: Sorting your recyclables properly means protecting the workers that sort them

By Nina Waysdorf
Special to the Daily
Composting diverts organic waste such as plants, kitchen scraps, paper and yard waste from the landfill, which is important when studies show Americans throw away about 96 billion pounds of food waste each year. If you're not comfortable doing your own, sign up for the Vail Honeywagon's program.
Special to the Daily | iStockphoto

Many are working extra hard to keep their families and communities safe during the coronavirus pandemic by cleaning hands and surfaces more frequently, staying home and maintaining safe social distances. 

Waste hauling is essential business for keeping our communities safe and clean. So while we’re all following orders to stay home to help stop the spread of COVID-19, our trash and recycling is getting picked up and managed as normal. In order to keep those doing the work protected, it is important to be extra mindful of what you’re putting in your bins. They are exposed to everyone’s bacteria and germs, and the less they have to sort, the safer they’ll be from exposure.

Properly diverting and separating your waste is as important as ever these days, but you might be dealing with some extra items you’re not used to disposing of. Be aware of which bin these items should go into, and follow these tips to make sure you’re safely disposing of waste.

  • Disinfecting wipes should always be thrown away in the trash – never in your recycling, compost, or flushed down the toilet, according to Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.
  • Paper towels are normally compostable (not recyclable), but we have to be extra careful with anything that has potentially come in contact with viruses, according to Eco-Cycle. If you are or might be sick, please throw paper towels away in the trash, not in your recycling, compost or flushed down the toilet. Additionally, please do not compost any paper towels that have been used with disinfectants or bleach. 
  • Tissues are generally compostable. However, any tissues used for coughing or blowing your nose should go in the trash, not compost, if you are or might be sick. 
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence that the coronavirus causing COVID-19 can be spread through food, so keep composting food scraps if you have access to composting. In fact, if you’re finding yourself cooking much more these days, consider signing up for the residential compost drop off program with Vail Honeywagon.

With more people in the home for longer than usual, the recycling and trash bins are filling up more quickly than they usually would, and it’s important to know what goes where.

  • Many recyclables are sorted by hand, so haulers are being extra cautious and may reject contaminated bins. Never put food or hazardous materials in your recycling bin.
  • Never put plastic bags in your recycling bin. Plastic bags in the recycling always pose a health and safety risk, as they cause shutdowns at the processing facilities and can compromise the health of employees if they rip them open to sort materials. If you bag your recycling at home, make sure you are emptying the recyclables and throwing the plastic bag in the garbage. 
  • Check the Eagle County Waste Wizard app if you’re unsure where to put an item. It’s always better to know before you throw, and the Waste Wizard is a great tool to stay educated on recycling rules, which can change over time. You can also ask recycling questions through the app and the Wizards will get back to you.

Nina Waysdorf is the sustainability programs coordinator at Walking Mountains. Contact her at

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