What Happens When You Recycle the Wrong Things (Video) Email Some recycling programs have over 25% contamination — meaning over a quarter of what we throw in our recycling carts doesn’t belong there. Contamination is a big problem because: It gets tangled up in machinery that was designed to handle different items, bringing the sorting process to a standstill. It endangers the workers who have to climb into the machinery and fix it when it stops running. It slows down the sorting process, which increases costs. It means that the materials that come out of recycling facilities are less useful for making new products. Watch this video to see what really happens when people toss things in their recycling that don’t belong: You can help solve the problem of contamination! Check out our Quick Guide to What Goes in the Bins for an overview of what belongs in your recycling, and look up any other items you have questions about in our Recycling Guide.