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Why is recycling so complicated? L.A.'s quest for a better way

August 12, 2011 |  1:23 pm

Recycling questions

Why is recycling so complicated? As anyone who follows our weekly "Can I Recycle" feature knows, doing the right thing isn't as easy as one would think. Some plastics are labeled "compostable" but are not. Ziploc bags and plastic utensils are not marked with recycling symbols, but they can indeed be recycled -- but only if you live in certain cities. Why is it all so confusing? And what will it take to make recycling easier? Times staff writer Susan Carpenter sets out to answer those questions in her latest stories.

Recycling: More questions than answers

Throw recycling in the trash? Some cities do

Recycling quiz

Which of these things can you recycle? Clockwise, from top: Most people know cardboard cereal boxes can be recycled, but what about the plastic liner? In Los Angeles, it can be recycled even if it doesn't have the recycling symbol. Tubes of toothpaste, however, usually cannot be recycled because they are mixed materials -- metal mesh, acrylic and polypropylene. We wondered why a Softsoap hand cleanser refill bottle would not be recyclable, so we contacted a company spokeswoman, who guided us to the recycling symbol -- bizarrely hidden under the cap. Only recently did Los Angeles begin accepting juice boxes and milk cartons in its curbside recycling bins.

Illustration credit: Reuben Munoz / Los Angeles Times. Photo credit: Bob Chamberlain / Los Angeles Times.

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