FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 15, 2019
On an almost daily basis, more reports are appearing in the news about the a perceived recycling crisis related to the Chinese “Green Fence” ban on imports of many types of waste materials that went into effect in China at the beginning of 2018. Even worse, rumors are spreading that recyclers are secretly landfilling the materials they collect for a lack of markets.
Recyclers in Bloomington-Normal say that’s not the case—they would lose more money if they were to do that. Collecting and transporting recyclables to their sorting facilities only to turn around and pay to have them landfilled simply doesn’t make economic sense. But what is true is that weak markets and high contamination rates are real challenges that have real impacts.
According to local recyclers such as Midwest Fiber and Area Disposal Service Inc., increased rates of contamination are making recycling more difficult and more expensive. The more contaminants mixed in with recyclables that enter a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), the more work it takes to sort the recyclables, removing the bad from the good. Increased contamination requires more people on the sorting lines and the conveyors to move slower, so processing costs per ton go up.
Local recycler Area Disposal Service Inc. is even currently phasing out glass as an “acceptable” material for recycling due to high direct and indirect costs for processing and recycling glass, including wear and tear on sorting equipment. Current and new residential and commercial customers of Area Disposal will be notified to no longer include glass in their recycling carts.
The Ecology Action Center, working with local recyclers and as part of a statewide anti-contamination initiative launched last year, has completely changed their recycling messaging to help reduce contamination. “It’s really simplified at this point—there are no gray areas,” says Michael Brown, Executive Director of the EAC. “The new messaging clearly illustrates what materials are acceptable in curbside recycling programs. Anything that is not shown as acceptable is now unacceptable—we need to err on the side of caution to reduce the contamination rates sufficiently.”
The EAC’s new recycling flyer is available for download as a pdf file at recyclebn.org/#newrecyclingguidelines or is available for free by stopping by the Ecology Action Center during regular business hours or the City of Bloomington Public Works Department or the Town of Normal Public Works Department.