Plastic bags are number one problem in our recycling bin: Officials

If you've ever looked at your pile of recyclables and thought: Does this go in? Is this recyclable? Blue bin or trash?

We visited with the City of Philadelphia's Recycling Director for the cheat sheet.

"People are excited about recycling, but we have to do it right, " says Kyle Lewis, recycling program director for the City of Philadelphia.

If we don't?

"We actually end up costing a lot money," Lewis says. "We clog up the machines at the recycling plant."

There are 6 things on the "YES" list:

-Mixed Paper
-Cardboard Cartons
-Metal Cans
- Plastic Containers

- Bottles

"That's all we want in the recycling bin," Lewis says.

And those "YES" items must be prepped first. You can toss one bad thing in the batch and it can ruin a truckload of recycling.

"If it's a bottle that has liquid in it, it can get inside that truck, get smashed and all of the paper and cardboard around it is ruined because now it's wet," Lewis says.

The same goes for food containers.

"We need the food out of it, we need the liquid out of it," she says.

Here's the hard NO list:

"Plastic bags are the number one problem in our recycling bin," Lewis says.

Also: greasy, cheesy pizza boxes.

"We want the clean top in the recycling bin and the soiled bottom in the trash," she says.

No furniture, clothing or batteries.

"We don't want any kind of hangers," she says. "Not wire or plastic. We certainly don't want any syringes because those can be dangerous to our workers."

She gave me a 30-second pop quiz.

I did pretty well, but missed two big ones: wood and a disposable coffee cup.

"Coffee cups are not recyclable because it's two pieces of cardboard that surround a piece of plastic," she explains.

Just remember: Take a minute before you bin it and when it doubt, keep it out.

Click here for the full guide.
Copyright © 2021 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.