A new study by Commercial Cafe looked at wage disparities in a different way; across occupations instead the usual household income. They looked at the gap between the highest and lowest earning professions in all 50 states and the top 50 major U.S. metro areas. We’ve all been there. Standing, staring at the recycling bin. It’s daunting, really. None of us walk away from a recycling bin confident that the item we placed in there is actually recyclable, but at least we made the effort. That should count for something, right?

The truth is, improper recycling habits are just as bad as not having any recycling habits at all. One non-recyclable item placed in a recycling bin can spoil an entire batch of otherwise recyclable materials.

If you ever reach a moment of confusion at a recycling bin, remember these three things:

Food and liquids cannot be in recycling.

Plastic grocery store bags and loose plastic bags, along with flexible plastics cannot be placed in recycling.

Paper, cardboard, empty cans and bottles can be recycled.

Okay, maybe recycling doesn’t sound too exciting. What reward does recycling provide? Usually, there’s no one there to pat you on the back or give you a high-five when you recycle correctly. On the other hand, there’s no one there to sound an alarm if you improperly recycle. Truly, you’re left with your own conscience and how either the action or inaction sits with you.

Making a small effort to understand the dos and don’ts of recycling can go a long way. On average, each person generates around four pounds of waste per day. One and a half pounds of that waste is usually recyclable. If we multiply 1.5 times the amount of students there are on the university’s campus (20,194 to be exact), that’s around 30,291 pounds of recyclable material produced by people on campus each day. Those numbers are miniscule compared to the vast amounts of waste and recyclable waste produced on a national and global level. Nothing we use for a couple of minutes should pollute our environment for years.

The harsh truth is that nearly one in four items placed in every recycling bin aren’t actually recyclable. If proper resources and education is available to us we can help to ensure that all recyclable material winds up in a recycling plant and later reused or remade into another product.

Neglecting our responsibility to become educated and aware of how to recycle properly will have negative effects on our local and global environments. Though individualism is essential, no single recycling properly can make up for all of those who don’t. We need as many people as possible actively involved in proper recycling habits to make a change.

Opinions expressed in The Nevada Sagebrush are solely those of the author and do not necessarily express the views of The Sagebrush or its staff. Faith Delfin is a student at the University of Nevada. She can be reached at jaceygonzalez@sagebrush.unr.ed and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.