With the Chinese ban on plastics recycling imports at the beginning of this year, recycling has become a very hot topic, and Lowell is no exception. Past Council discussions have revealed that Lowell is being fined $8,000-$12,000 a month for recycling loads with too high a percentage of contamination. What constitutes contamination? Lots of things, from non-recyclable plastics, to plastic bags, to pizza boxes contaminated with food and oil residue.
What’s worse, contamination over a certain percent means a batch of recycling goes right into the landfill, and my carefully sorted and cleaned recycling gets dumped right along with my neighbor’s, if they are doing a poor job.
You know I don’t link to the Sun unless it’s really important, and this one is.
In Lowell, it’s become such a problem that the city hired two recycling enforcement coordinators — and has received a grant to hire a third — to get a handle on its high contamination rates.
“Thirty to 40 percent of materials put into the recycling carts is contaminated,” said Department of Public Works Commissioner Jim Donison. “It becomes a problem for Waste Management, because when they receive a load of recyclable material, they have to reject it.”
“One of the biggest issues we’re finding is amongst yard waste and other waste,” said Recycling Coordinator Gunther Wellenstein. “People think, ‘Oh look, the trash bin is full but I still have space in my recycling cart. As long as the lid closes, no one will notice and it will go away.
Read the whole article, it has a lot of important information. And as careful as we are about our own recycling in my household, there are things I didn’t know. For instance, NO shredded paper. None of those black plastic take out containers, or clamshell food containers!
Many materials that have long been considered recyclable — such as milk and juice gable-top and aseptic cartons, shredded paper, cardboard canisters, clear plastic clamshell food containers and black plastic take-out containers — will no longer be accepted.
Another thing you should be doing is rinsing your food contaminants from your recyclables. It doesn’t have to be pristine, but it should be rinsed with water and food particles should be scraped off. Please don’t ruin my efforts to make my recyclables contaminant-free by contaminating yours.
Look for more enforcement, and for heaven’s sake, do NOT put a pizza box with a WHOLE PIZZA into your recycle bin as was discovered by the enforcement team while making this video: