Michele Berger
Published: 04/10/2012

Need some help knowing which materials go into which colored recycling bins? Never fear, Marcus and Madeline Harris, Portlandia’s Sanitation Twins, are here.

“Five years ago, we went green,” Madeline touts. “This year, we’re going greener.”

“Now there’s a bin for everything,” Marcus pipes up. He’s not kidding: For cardboard and paper, it’s the blue bin. For coffee-cup sleeves, the orange one. For stir sticks and cups, brown and periwinkle, respectively. Even lipstick-covered lids have a separate bin (it’s rose, if you’re curious).

Portlandia—now in its second season on the Independent Film Channel —is, of course, poking lighthearted fun at extreme recyclers. But even modest levels of this simple act can make a serious dent in what we put into landfills. In 2010, for instance, Americans recycled and composted 85 million tons of the 210 million we generated, according to the EPA. That’s a 34% rate. Our good habits equated to removing 36 million cars from the road for a full year (186 million metric tons of carbon dioxide).

You probably already recycle at least a little. But do you know what happens once you bid adieu to your containers? The Sanitation Twins do. “Once it’s all sorted,” says Madeline, “everything is recycled into three categories: Clean air, fresh water, or good vibes!” Yay! ... If only. In actuality, your recycling gets cleaned and separated before becoming part of common items like paper towels and laundry detergent bottles that then re-enter the purchase chain. Maybe not actual good vibes, but still pretty cool.

If you’re not sure where or how to recycle, plug your zip code into Earth911 to find a recycling center near you.

Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen in Portlandia. Photo: Chris Hornbecker/IFC.

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