This past year, I was faced with an appalling fact. Statistically, only about 20% of what the community was putting out to recycle was being recycled. Instead, residents were seeing their recycling bins that had contamination — items that are not, in fact, recyclable — picked up by the trash trucks and taken to the landfill.
Everyone will make mistakes from time to time, it’s human nature. But if we are habitually putting items into our recycling carts that shouldn’t be there, we need to know so we can improve. Our Public Works team devised a new form that Summit Trash and Recycling drivers will be using. Hopefully it will be in use by the time this paper is in your hands!
If you find one of these tags on your recycling, please use it to help your household improve and little by little, the whole town will improve.
In the meantime, here are some good rules to keep in mind:
No bags — like really. No bags. Plastic bags are the number-one contaminant in recycling loads. Plastic bags act as “tanglers,” getting caught in machinery and shutting down the equipment. If it doesn’t survive “the poke test” where your finger can go through it – it should not go into the recycling bin. Things like sandwich bags, bubble wrap, plastic wrapping for products and other thin materials like tissue paper are not recyclable.
Small things won’t work. If there are things that are smaller than a credit card in your recycling bin, they are going to cause problems. Straws, bottle caps, coffee pods, plastic cutlery. Don’t put these into recycling carts.
Items should be clean, empty, and dry. If you think it might attract small animals outside, that’s not clean enough. If there is food on the container that can be eaten by an animal, it doesn’t belong in the recycling bin. Rinse it first. If there is a part of the pizza box with grease on it? Remove that part and recycle the rest. Those paper inserts for take-out food containers? Remove them.
Combined items are trash! These are not recyclable. Mailers that have paper on the outside and bubble wrap on the inside? Trash. Laminated paper? Plastic-coated coffee cups? Trash.
My hope is that we can all make small improvements that will slowly add up to larger improvements. And with the help of our new signs, cooperation and patience from our Summit drivers, and a little extra effort from us all, we will make progress. It’s one of the best things about being part of a small community. Change is easy to see and improvements can be readily made.
Thank you to www.earthday.org for the help with this article, thank you to the Summit drivers, who are taking extra time with our community, and thank you as always to our Public Works team and every community member who pitches in to move us forward.