Quality matters

Low oil prices, reduced overseas demand, and increased contamination nationwide have dampened commodity prices for recyclables. Sales of recyclables help support recycling infrastructure, traditionally covering part of the cost of collection and processing. When commodity prices are down, collection and processing costs fall more heavily on county and city governments.

In order to make local recyclables as valuable as possible in this competitive environment, we need to provide the highest-quality recyclables that we can. That means clean materials without contaminants.

  1. Dirty containers and wet, soiled paper are a problem. Factories set the standards for materials that come into their plants. Containers need to be emptied, rinsed, and drained. Paper should be clean and dry. If your pizza fell on the funny pages while you ate your lunch, don’t put that section into the recycling bin! Recycle the rest of the newspaper and put the pizza-stained paper into the trash.
  2. Plastic shopping bags create as many problems at recycling facilities as they do blowing along our roadsides. Plastic shopping bags, wrap from cases of water bottles, and similar plastic films get caught in equipment at the recycling processing center, often leading to costly shutdowns and equipment repairs. Reuse plastic shopping bags at home or drop them off in the recycling bin at a grocery or discount store. Learn more at A Bag’s Life.
  3. Non-recyclables mixed with recyclables in bins and containers cause contamination. Manufacturers want only the recyclable materials they requested. For example, a factory that needs glass bottles to make new glass jars doesn’t want—and cannot use—ceramic mugs or light bulbs. When items that weren’t requested end up in recycling carts, they have to be sorted out (often by hand) and thrown away. Plus, in the case of ceramic material, if it breaks, it can’t be entirely sorted out and contaminates the glass load.

Make sure you are recycling only the materials accepted in your local program and no contaminants. Check your local community’s recycling guidelines for details on what can be put in your area recycling bins. And, as you are filling your recycling bin, bag, or box, remember this general rule—if in doubt, leave it out.

For more on current recycling markets, check out Consumer Education Key in Volatile Recycling Market. And for more on recycling right, check out Begin With the Bin!

Photo credit: (c) iStock.com | Brian A Jackson


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