NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – We mean well, but how often do we recycle wrong?

Experts say it is increasingly important to avoid recycling blunders, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported Thursday.

The New York Times recently dubbed it “aspirational recycling”: You’re not 100 percent certain something belongs in the blue bin, but you put it in anyway.

“You’re not sure, but you want to do the right thing. If it’s recyclable, why throw it in the garbage? You just kind of assume,” said Tommy Greehan of Yonkers.

People who do the important work of managing the waste stream would prefer you not assume, because getting it wrong means extra work and extra expense.

For example: Because so much plastic is recyclable, a lot of people assume plastic bags must be too. In fact, at the Yonkers Recycling Center, there’s sign after sign saying no plastic bags.

“They’re considered a contaminant by many of the Material Recovery Facilities because they tend to get tangled in the machinery,” said Yonkers Sustainability Director Jason Baker.

Those facilities sort and bundle recyclables, many of which are then shipped to companies in China. Many of those companies are getting picky: They want the cleanest stuff possible, known in the industry as “uncontaminated.”

“If we put the wrong things into our recycling bins, they end up causing contamination,” said Baker.

“Would we like people to make their recycling cleaner? Sure. Rinse out your cans, rinse out the plastics before you put them in recycling,” said Tom Meier of the Yonkers DPW.

When it comes to cardboard, a little cheese on the pizza box is OK, Aiello reported. Lid soaked with grease? Tear it off and toss it in the garbage.

Experts say disposable paper cups are a common recycling blunder. Most have been treated to be leak-proof, making them difficult to recycle.

Bottom line: Every municipality has a website or annual mailing, spelling out how to do the recycling thing the right way.

Here are the recycling guidelines for our area:

Westchester | New York City | New York State | New Jersey | Connecticut

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