On America Recycles Day – Are You Recycling Right?

Bloomington-Normal, IL-  Nov. 15, 2018 –  On America Recycles Day, local government leaders, multiple organizations and the waste industry, are asking consumers if they are recycling right.  Based on audits performed by the recycling industry, one in four items placed in the recycling cart is not recyclable which has led to increased contamination.

To tackle the issue of recycling contamination, the National Waste and Recycling Association (NWRA) and Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) formed a state-wide task force to bring the recycling industry – haulers and sorting facility operators – together with government and business to develop simple, cohesive recycling education materials to help residents better understand what items should and should not be placed in recycling carts.

“Recycling is more highly contaminated with non-recyclable garbage than ever before,” said Walter Willis, SWALCO executive director and co-chair of the NWRA – SWANA task force.  “The non-recyclable items weigh down sorting facilities, reduce commodity prices, and affect the re-manufacturing markets,” continued Willis.

“Recycling facilities report contamination from 25% to over 35% in some of the recycling streams,” said Lisa Disbrow, vice chair of the Illinois Chapter of NWRA and co-chair of the NWRA and SWANA task force. “As recycling facilities add labor to help remove contamination and slow lines to improve recovery, these additional costs are passed along which may increase costs for local governments, and ultimately residents,” commented Disbrow.

The task force identified the most common items placed in the recycling cart that are not recyclable including plastic bags, tanglers (i.e. garden hoses, wire, cords, clothing), food waste, medical waste including syringes, and batteries.  As a result of the task force discussions, guidelines were developed to represent the common recycling denominators of all programs throughout the state, and the goal is to have them as go-to guidelines for all programs, all haulers, and all educators throughout the state. Participating in the discussions at the task force, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency developed and launched a new webpage this month to answer recycling questions for Illinois residents: https://www2.illinois.gov/epa/topics/waste-management/Pages/recycling.aspx

“Plastics are the most commonly misunderstood items,” explained Marie Streenz, Operations Analyst with Midwest Fiber Recycling in Normal. “The resin identification code number in the triangle does not mean that a plastic object is recyclable!  Plastic containers – bottles, tubs, jugs and jars – are the only plastic items recyclable in your curbside carts. Please keep all flexible plastic packaging, pouches, bags, and wraps out of your recycling!”

To both reduce contamination and simplify the message, a streamlined recycling flyer has been developed that is virtually universal across Illinois.  “Beyond that, if local residents want detailed answers of what is and what is not recyclable, they can always call us at 309-454-3169 or check out our easy-to-use Recycle Coach app at RecycleBN.org,” said Michael Brown of the Ecology Action Center.

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