Home2 Suites by Hilton Pittsburgh Cranberry, PA
Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

Doing This Ruins Recycling. Please. Don’t Do This.

As I was sitting while having breakfast at the Home2 Suites by Hilton Pittsburgh Cranberry, PA hotel property, a conversation started between me and an employee who worked at that hotel property — and she told me something about recycling which I had never thought pertaining to lodging…

Doing This Ruins Recycling. Please. Don’t Do This.

Home2 Suites by Hilton Pittsburgh Cranberry, PA
Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

…and that is to never put anything other than items which can be recycled in the Recycle bin.

That seems like a simple concept — right?

Think again.

“You’d be surprised at how many people scrape their food into the recycle bin,” said the employee. “Once food scraps are dumped in there, anything that is in that bin can no longer be recycled. It becomes garbage.”

Most guests and visitors do not do this purposely. In this case, part of the blame may be on the design of the station at which the disposal of both recycled products and trash occurs.

Home2 Suites by Hilton Pittsburgh Cranberry, PA
Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

At this particular hotel property, the orange letters of the words Recycle and Trash on the wall do not contrast enough against the brown faux wood background, and the two holes which are adjacent to each other in the counter are identical; so confusing them can be very easy to do — especially when one is not paying full and complete attention to what one is doing.

While this involuntary reduction of recycling at this one particular hotel property is not exactly a worldwide environmental crisis, multiply it by the number of guests in general who mistakenly dispose of their garbage in the Recycle bin — as well as the number of hotel and resort properties which have a similar policy and setup and therefore can be conducive in this accidental behavior — and the numbers become increasingly more significant.


Please take an extra moment or two to ensure that you do whatever you can to avoid contaminating products which are destined to be recycled. Regardless of whether it is done accidentally or purposely, carelessly disposing of food and other wrong items into the recycle bin renders the items already in there which were to be recycled to instead be destined for the trash bin.

Better design in general for the separation of items to be recycled versus trash — combined with people taking only a few moments to ensure that they are completely alert and give their undivided attention to what needs to be done correctly — may help go a long way overall towards the reduction of waste and protecting our environment.

Other articles pertaining to plastic waste and recycling include:

All photographs ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

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  1. Food recycles into compost. I would throw it in their as well as it reclycles. In the netherlands we recycle almost all (all organic stuff, metal, plastic, packaging except those chips bags with alu foil inside this not, paper). As a family if 4 we have maybe 1 garbage (50 liters) per month rest waste.

    So if organics cannot go into recycle something is wrong with reclycing.

    1. While your statement is true, most places do not have a city-wide composting program. In places where they do (e.g., San Francisco), the food recycling is segregated with rest of the recycling. In addition, all single-stream recycling program specified that it should not be soiled with food. If you are putting food in your single stream recycling bin, you are basically putting all the paper, plastic, and metal back in the dump.

      What the hotel should do is instead of a generic recycling sign, they should specify what can go in the bin (e.g., paper/plastic). Even then, there’s going to be confusion, as certain paper products are not recyclable (like Starbucks coffee cups and fountain soda cups, since they are lined).

      1. I stayed at a Candlewood that had those specific signs at the recycle. It was very helpful.

        I’ve been told that even the glue holding on the label can contaminate the recycle stream. Even the grease on the pizza box. So yes, people need to be very careful not to let stuff like wet garbage get in the recycle bin.

  2. How can you blame the people when the sign only says “recycle”. What does that even mean what is recyclable? That word carts so much country to country and even state to state. In Hawaii I have 2 different color recycling cans, other states have 1-3 recycling cans. In European and some Asian countries they have 7-10 different cans and recycle nearly everything. So when a hotel only has a trash labels recycle how is that defined? Not likely that people will take the time to Google the recycling rules for that state. If the hotel truly cared about recycling that would clearly post instructions otherwise no point to put a recycle can because 99% of the time it will have the wrong items and they will just trash it.

  3. The Wikipedia describes USA recycling as:
    “Recyclable materials include many kinds of glass, paper, cardboard, metal, plastic, tires, textiles, batteries, and electronics. The composting or other reuse of biodegradable waste—such as food or garden waste—is also a form of recycling”
    According to Wikipedia food trash should go in to recycling. So how does one truly know what should and should not be recycled at any given location?

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