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Get an 'oops' or a 'thank you' tag in Mount Prospect? Environmental road warriors hit the street to help recycling efforts

Environmental road warriors hit the street to help with recycling efforts
Environmental road warriors hit the street to help with recycling efforts 02:39

CHICAGO (CBS)-- We all know recycling is the right thing to do. But are we recycling the right way?

A pilot program in the suburbs is helping homeowners. CBS 2's Audrina Bigos has the story.

On weekday mornings in Mount Prospect, a crew of "environmental road warriors"  is going street to street and bin to bin to check with homeowners regarding their recycling and letting them know what they're doing right and not-so-right.

It's part of a "tagging" pilot program by the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County.

"We have two tags. We have an 'oops' tag to mark some of the infractions," said Mary Salvatori Allen of SWANCC. "If we raise the lid and visually inspect it and it looks perfect, they get a 'thank you' tag."

"These are all recyclable but they need to be empty."

Other items could've been recycled with just a few steps. Understanding the philosophy of recycling can help.  

"The idea behind recycling is to use the materials to make new products. When you have contamination like this, it hinders the good materials from being processed. When there's a lot of contamination, the whole cart will wind up in the landfill," Allen said.  She added "all containers that go into your recycling cart need to be rinsed and cleaned. Labels are fine."

Recycling also should be dry and loose. Don't bag it before you cart it. And no plastic bags or Styrofoam.

"For plastics, it's bottles, jugs, jars or tubs. That's it," she said, adding that as for metal...

"Only metal cans, aluminum cans, steel cans, foil pans, foil."

Allen said the best steps are taken before your stuff even*gets to your cart.

"Reduce and reuse come before recycling," Allen said. "(To)minimize and prevent waste before it's even made."

In just a few weeks the "thank you tags" in Mount Prospect are up to nearly 50%. Residents are sent a letter telling them about the program and they can opt out if they want.

Allen said the strangest thing she's seen in a recycling bin is a tire. She suggests checking your town's website to learn more about what *is recyclable and where you can safely dispose of items that aren't.

And she said homeowners who get  "oops" tags often blame someone else in their household. Usually a spouse or the kids!

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