Recycling in the valley made easier: steps and tips on using your green bin
There are plenty of products that can be recycling in curbside bins, including plastics, aluminum and mixed papers.
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By Mandy Morgan Ditto | email@example.com
For years, community members across the Salt Lake Valley have put out big green bins to symbolize they not only have waste to get rid of but recycled materials to send off to be reused. However, there isn’t a year that goes by where community members find themselves unsure of exactly what can be recycled and where to take the rest that is still potentially recyclable.
Why Recycling is Important
Most people are aware of or have chosen to get a green bin for personal recycling at their home, or they use a nearby recycling bin wherever they live. There are plenty of financial and environmental reasons for recycling, but some experts in the area believe there are things community members should know to encourage them to recycle.
“A lot of our landfills will sustain for about 15 more years, and then we will either need to ship things out farther or have transfer stations,” said Dawn Beagley, who is in charge of business development at ACE Recycling and Disposal. “Or, we can keep all of the recyclables out of landfills and they will last a lot longer.”
Besides the large environmental impact choosing to recycle could have on landfills, Beagley also believes recycling is simply the right thing to do.
“It’s too bad we don’t have kids or grandkids that could invent something using these recyclables to reuse a lot more stuff — that would be best,” Beagley said. “I hate to see when someone throws a plastic bottle in the trash. I teach my kids at home, ‘No, that’s recyclable.’ I just think it’s very important.”
Jennifer Meriwether, who works in business development for Rocky Mountain Recycling, sees recycling as real sustainability and “a good alternative that also keeps people engaged and aware...that is very important and necessary.” Rocky Mountain Recycling helps with curbside service in the valley, and things picked up by ACE are taken to their plant facility to go through for contamination and recycling.
The chance recycling gives for people to be engaged in the community is something many disposal companies in the valley are using to help people see the value of recycling. Educating and getting kids involved is especially relevant and is something many parents are doing to show their kids how to make an impact in their community.
For Trena L., a resident of Murray, recycling definitely feels like being engaged and a part of the community, she said.
“There’s always that guilt that comes with it, if you don’t do it, and you feel like you should probably be doing it more,” she said. She puts her curbside bin out at least every other week. “But you are always aware of it, and once you just do it, it becomes a habit.”
What NOT to Recycle
Unfortunately, no matter how much community members are getting engaged in recycling, there is plenty of misinformation and confusion about what can or cannot be recycled. And though many things can be recycled, it depends on whether the city — and the disposal companies service the city — have the resources to recycle every product, Beagley said.
“Because, right now, the recycling numbers are down, the products are not worth as much as they use to be,” Beagley said. “And with the recyclers, we are taking items to them that they don’t want as much as they use to.”
Currently, plastic foam and any cardboard with wax film can’t be recycled. It has also become cheaper for companies to make new plastic bags rather than recycle and reuse them. When plastic bags are put into curbside recycling bins and taken to the lots where recycled goods are sorted, they are doing what recyclers and disposal companies call contaminating. This means that it can affect everything else in a load that is recyclable, causing it to be not recyclable, if it isn’t sorted out in time. Plastic bags also frequently jam and clog the machines where sorting of recycling happens, and the local trucks picking up anything in curbside bins can also be harmed by the bags, as well, Meriwether said. Currently, Rocky Mountain Recycling is trying to do a bag ban with recycling much like was done in California, so that no bags can be put into bins and they can just be taken back to grocery stores to be recycled or reused, she said.
Contamination is the biggest issue for recyclers, due to the misinformation of community members.
Food waste that is in or on recyclable products, as well as clothing and plastic bags, are a few of the things that can cause contamination, Beagley said. “We want the recycling bins to be clean; food waste is the worst,” she said. “And with clothing, that is the wrong place to recycle it. There are other places for that.”
However, potentially the worst culprit of contamination is glass. There are glass drop-offs all over the valley for those who want to recycle it, but curbside bins are not the place to put it.
There are a few types of glass that cannot be recycled. These include ceramic, mirrored glass and light bulbs, all of which are very problematic contaminants to get out once a load of glass is melted together.
Another is thick, Pyrex-type glass. The rule to live by with that type of glass is this: “Basically, if you can put it in your oven, it can’t be recycled,” said John Lair, president and CEO of Momentum Recycling, a glass recycling company in Utah and Colorado.
For a more comprehensive list of what cannot be recycled by ACE Disposal, which services in the Salt Lake Valley, go to www.acedisposal.com/index.php/recycling-disposal-for-your-home/residential-recycling.
What to Recycle
Though there are some products that can only be thrown away or recycled in another way, there are more things that can be recycled.
“Glass is low-hanging fruit: It’s easy material to identify,” Lair said. “Glass is always recyclable, besides the few we listed and everyone can do it.”
Another part of recycling that can especially be done with glass is reusing. Community members can reuse materials and play another part in the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle cycle.
“Glass is 100 percent recyclable,” Lair said. “You can make a new container with glass that you can’t do with others. If you are shopping based on your sustainability preferences, glass is your best packing choice. I really encourage people to embrace glass and close the loop and make sure to recycle glass locally.”
There are many recyclable plastics, papers and metals; they are not as limited as many may think.
“A lot of people they can put a lot of things in the recycling bin, so they put it in the garbage,” Meriwether said. “It’s actually a lot easier than people think it is. People think they have to go through a big process, sorting them and all, and they don’t necessarily have to do that.”
Here is a list of basics that can be recycled:
- Paper: office, note
- Brochures, catalogues
- Wrapping paper
- Cardboard (flattened or cut)
- Paper egg cartons
- Plastic containers #1-7
- Milk, juice, water jugs and bottles
- Laundry jugs and bottles
- Aluminum cans
- Tin cans
- Clean aluminum foil
- Aluminum disposable pans and plates
- And more!
For a more comprehensive list of recyclable items, visit: www.acedisposal.com/index.php/recycling-disposal-for-your-home/residential-recycling.
Lair sees recycling as important for the entire community, and not just something one should do because they are an environmentalist.
“It’s good for the local economy,” he said. “It creates jobs, giving sustainable, long-term employment. Like ours, most are small businesses, which is very good for the community in many ways. I would encourage people to get involved, and in the long run, help us conserve our limited, dwindling recycled materials. Whether it’s products or packaging, it doesn’t have to be dug from the earth. It extends longevity of natural resources; it’s the smart thing to do, and not just environmentally.”
There are resources across the valley to help community members know how to recycle and reuse and be involved in the community.