It's imperative that we recycle to reduce our wastefulness, but it is as equally important that we are recycling the correct items and in the proper way. A large percentage of people who frequently recycle throw mostly anything in the bin without giving it a second thought as to if it is truly recyclable or not. It may seem like a good idea to throw in those items that you are unsure of “just in case”. However, there is a secret that the recycling plants don't tell you. Only a small percent of what we ship off to be recycled ends up there. Alarmingly there has been over an 80% rise in the number of rejected recycling. So why is this and where does rejected material go? The “where” is easy. If materials can’t be recycled, they go to the landfill. The “why” is a more nuanced question to answer. However, in attempts to provide an answer we must first look at the process of recycling.
In simplistic terms, recycling works in the following way: items are placed in a bin for recycling, those items are collected and sent to a recycling plant to be sorted, and lastly those sorted materials are sent off to a processor to be repurposed. Many things can go wrong in each step to throw off the recycling process. Typically, the mistakes happen in the first step, with us.
We tend to throw away things that can’t be recycled or are “contaminated”. If there is an influx of materials that are not recyclable, recycling plants tend to send those shipments to the landfill even if there are recyclables in the mix. Additionally, if recyclables are contained within a plastic bag, the sorters will not open the bag to go through it. They will simply discard it. The best thing one can do is keep their recyclables loose in a bin.
Another problem is the contamination of recyclables. This includes items that can’t be recycled, items that contain food residue, or broken glass. Once a recyclable has been contaminated, its overall quality is diminished. Why is the monetary value of recyclables important? The reason is because the recycling plant is not what is transforming the “trash” into products. This is the processor. If the processor sees little to no monetary value in the trash, then they won't buy it. China was the largest buyer of recyclables from the United States. Recently, China has put a ban on the export of recyclables into the country from the US, UK, and Australia. One of the main reasons for this decision is because too many of the recyclables had been contaminated and therefore decreased the return on investment for China. China requires a low contamination rate of 0.5 percent, however US recyclables reach upwards of a 25 percent contamination rate! After China stopped accepting our recyclables, the US could not keep up with the influx of recyclables and were unable to sell them. Faced with a product that isn’t selling, the recyclables are being trashed as many cities and municipalities are simply no longer recycling!
So how can we prevent recyclables from ending up in the landfill???
Here are 7 recycling tips:
-Written by WCSWCD Intern, Josie Mitchell
For more information about recycling around Warren County, visit: www.co.warren.oh.us/SolidWaste/
For a list of approved recyclables from Rumpke, visit:
Rumpke has also made a list of tips for consumers so that we can all work together to control our waste and reuse unwanted items:
Warren County SWCD Staff Blog
A blog to keep you informed on all the latest news at Warren County SWCD and in the conservation world.