When in Doubt Keep it OUT
posted in Recycling Rules by Marissa Begley
The Sioux Falls area recycling rate was down in 2019 at 22.5% compared to 23.4% in 2018. The goal in 2020 was 22.5%, and we will soon find out if we met that or not, but even if we did, there’s room to recycle more!
According to KELOLAND.com, “In Minnesota, for example, the rate recycling and organics collection grew to 45.9% of the solid waste stream in 2018, according to Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Iowa’s is about 30%, according to the Iowa State Extension Service.”
Along with recycling MORE, we should also be recycling RIGHT. Many of us are guilty of “wishful recycling“….a phenomenon of wanting to recycle so badly that we throw things in the bin even when they can’t be recycled- hoping they’ll make it through the process. However, single stream recycling in your mixed bin is only for specific recyclables. Other materials that could be reused or composted, like wood, leaves, scrap metal, and electronics, should be processed outside of the single stream.
When we wishcycle, it causes BIG issues: (1) It takes a lot of work to MANUALLY sort out Not Accepted items, (2) it can DAMAGE recycling equipment and/or hurt employees, and (3) it drastically lowers the QUALITY of the material.
“Wishful Recycling” makes the process difficult.
At Millennium, we use automated equipment to sort out accepted single stream recyclables – Anything else must removed by hand, and that takes a lot of work. Throughout the process, our “quality control” team watches the fast-moving material and pulls out anything that is not on the accepted list.
If we miss something, it can damage the equipment. A loose plastic bag, a garden hose, or even just one wire hanger can wrap around equipment and bring the process to a stop. Other items that cause damage include larger, heavy chunks of materials like scrap metal or wood. If a piece of a bicycle or wooden pallet gets jammed into the system, it can take out valuable processing parts or injure employees – not to mention the health danger of hazardous waste when that makes it in.
We have to spend time to shut down the system, remove the material, figure out what was damaged, and replace the parts to get it working again. A lot of work, right?
“Wishful Recycling” Lowers the QUALITY.
Trying to recycle things with no resale market drives up the cost for everyone. After being sorted at Millennium, materials are sent to processors who make them into new products like paper, plastic bottles, or new soda cans. If non-recyclables are mixed in, they lower the quality of the material and processors have to spend more time and cost to process them. This means lower resale value and a lower quality end product.
Remember, When in Doubt, keep it out!