Animal, Vegetable, Recyclable?

Ireland as a whole is much more environmentally conscious than the United States (with the exception of a few scattered hippie enclaves). My house has a programmable heater you can set up on a timer. The water heater has a switch that lets you determine how much hot water you want it to make. (Though on the other hand, my kitchen sink has different knobs for hot and cold water, so once you get a temperature and water pressure you like you have to keep the water running or you’ll lose it forever.) And then there’s the trash. I have not one, not two, but three big official wheelie bins that the truck picks up: general waste, mixed recycling, and compost.

I want to do my part for the environment so I have purchased three trashcans for my kitchen and do my best to sort my waste appropriately. But sometimes I just can’t figure it out. A paper towel soaked in balsamic vinegar – compost, recycling, or neither? It’s paper, which I would normally recycle, but usually that’s dry, like newspaper. Does the vinegar make a difference? Presumably it would compost as well, but does it matter that the paper is bleached? Can I recycle a cardboard box that’s still covered in packing tape? Aluminum foil doused in olive oil and chicken juices?

A visit to the pick-up company’s website sheds no light on these problems, but it did inform me I’m not supposed to give them hazardous materials, like glass. But glass is recyclable! And what else am I supposed to do with empty jam jars and wine bottles? It’s so confusing! But at least I’m trying.