I Pledge to Recycle Right!
Contamination in our recycling and compost is a huge deal. Just because you want to recycle something, it doesn’t mean it’s actually recyclable. So the wrong thing in the wrong bin is called contamination and has all sorts of implications.
If loads of recycling are TOO contaminated, the ENTIRE load goes to the landfill. Recyclables are baled so that they can be sold to recyclers. After the recycling is hauled from your house, sorted by recycling line sorters (see video!), and baled, it can still have too much contamination and be rejected. Those materials are then landfilled at HUGE expense!
- The ONLY plastics that are actually recycled TODAY are water bottles, jugs (like detergent bottles), and tubs (like yogurt containers). That means that all the other packaging, clamshells (like lettuce and take-out food containers) — it is ALL garbage. Don’t let yourself feel better by recycling it!
- Compostable plastics — ALL of it — is trash. Yes, it’s crazy-making that it says compostable, but it does NOT break down in 6 months so our (and most) commercial compost facilities cannot take it. And don’t be fooled by the fact that Recology takes it in the city. They pay people to pull it out, where it is trashed. Yup. Makes no sense. I used to think that purchasing compostable cups is still better even if they’re landfilled because it is made of plant-based material. That’s not really true either, but it’s also a little complicated. There’s lots of pressure on manufacturers to make this right, so in the meantime — just say no to these fraud materials.
- Paper needs to be clean and dry. Food contaminated paper is compost. It’s that easy.
- MSS has a dual-stream recycling system. They used to be criticized for not having a single-stream system, but since the markets have shifted so dramatically, other recyclers are wishing, big-time, that they had a dual stream. Sorting into the proper streams is really important. Check out this video that goes a long way in explaining this:
This video provides a great description of some of the issues described here. Take note about the plastics bags. They NEVER ever go in either recycling containers, or the compost for that matter. Skip plastic bags altogether. I use a brown paper bag in my trash can. I line it with egg container to give it a little more strength. (Here’s another video that really shows people sorting our recycling — it’s a little longer.)
When in doubt — throw it out! Our garbage represents our consumption. Everything we buy represents embedded energy and a tremendous use of resources that you can’t see. It’s our individual and collective responsibility to our health, to our kid’s health, to the planet, to do this better. Let’s make better purchasing decisions to make less crap in the first place, but at the end of the day, let’s put stuff in the right bin! It’s not that hard but does require intentionality. It’s also a sign of respect to the front-line waste workers sorting our recycling! They will thank you and so will the earth!
When in doubt — ask, Where Does It Go, Joe? A great resource from Marin Sanitary Service.
Join Sustainable Fairfax’s Zero Waste Committee – we have work to do and would love your energy. We meet on the 3rd Tuesday of the Month at 7:00. Reach out to chat about it. firstname.lastname@example.org