Do You Know These 10 Recycling Buzzwords?

Sometimes it can seem like recycling experts are talking a different language than the rest of us.

See if you know these recycling buzzwords.  If you don’t, brush up on your vocabulary to help you understand more about how to recycle properly and understand the world of waste.

Here are 10 Recycling Buzzwords you should know.

Waste Stream:  The total flow of solid waste from your home, business or office to the landfill or recycling facility.  There is a recycling waste stream and a trash waste stream.

Wish Cycling isn't good for keeping items out of the waste stream - follow your city guidelines for recycling items and only recycle the approved items.

Wish Cycling:  Placing non-recyclable items, such as K-cups, into your recycling toter because you WISH they were recyclable. Always check the graphic on your toter to confirm if something is recyclable. Wish cycling creates more work and expense at the recycling plant, as these items must be removed from conveyor belts and then disposed of.

Single Stream:  A collection system where paper, plastics, and all other recyclables are mixed together in one truck and then sorted at a materials recovery facility (MRF). Single stream recycling promotes higher recycling rates.  Salem has been a single stream community since 2015.

Material Recycling Facility - Recycling Buzzword


MRF – “Materials Recovery Facility” – A recycling processing plant that uses machinery or human labor to sort recyclables.  At the facility they create bales of similar materials, and sell the bales to manufacturers who will reuse the material.

Contamination: Contamination is any item that does NOT belong in your recycling stream.  A load of recycling can become contaminated (and unusable) when it includes too many non-recyclable materials.

Commingling: When paper, plastics, and container recycling are all mixed together in the same collection container.  See also: Single Stream.

clamshell packaging

Clamshell: Not just for the beach anymore.  Clamshells are food packaging that can be foam or plastic with attached lids. Plastic clamshells ARE currently recyclable in Salem, foam are NOT. (Always check the infographic on the top of your toter for more information)

Salem, MA has mandatory recycling. Here's how to figure out what you can recycle.

Diversion: Preventing an item from entering the waste stream either by avoiding its purchase and use, or through upcycling or recycling.

Upcycling can be beautiful and keep items out of the waste stream. Here's some inspiration.

Upcycling: Transforming one discarded object or material into another of higher value by altering, crafting, or repair.

E-waste: Electronic waste or “Anything with a cord.” These products can be recycled by using their components in other products, refurbishing and selling them in different markets, or repairing them for use.

What words would you add to this list?  Comment on the SalemRecycles facebook page to help us understand what still confuses you about recycling.

Written by Beth Melillo, Salem resident, recycling enthusiast, and current SalemRecycles Chair.

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