We’ve been doing the recycling routine all wrong. We’ve been dumping stuff in those carts that can’t be recycled or for which markets have disappeared.
This is costing Republic Services, the trash disposal franchise holder in Albany and surroundings, all kinds of problems. The main one is that that the Clackamas company receiving our recycling stream for sorting and resale has begun charging Republic money instead of paying it.
The Albany City Council Wednesday fended off a request by Republic to raise the monthly trash collection and recycling fee, a request prompted by the stark new reality of the recycling business. Instead of taking action right away, the council will discuss it again at a work session April 9. Republic wants to raise the monthly fee $2 in order to continue curbside recycling as now, but with a new emphasis on reducing “contamination.”
The problem is that we’ve been tossing all kinds of stuff into the recycling bins that never was or no longer is possible to recycle, that is, become the raw material for new products. This has contaminated the material to the point where China, which used to accept most of the world’s refuse, stopped taking it as of this year.
So just what is recyclable now? Julie Jackson, the municipal manager for Republic in this area, emailed me the company’s latest instruction sheet for customers.
There are only three kinds of items acceptable in the company’s mixed or commingled recycling carts: Paper and cardboard; tin and aluminum cans, and plastic bottles and jugs without their caps. (The allowable paper category includes junk mail, greeting cards but not if they have foil or glitter, magazines, newspapers, phone books, paper bags, and paperback books.)
The prohibited list is longer: scrap metal, shredded paper, plastic cups, plastic jars, plastic tubs of the kind that hold margarine and so forth, aerosol cans, aluminum foil, “clamshell” and take-out trays, and also — this surprised me — egg cartons.
Further, the items allowed in the carts must be “empty, clean and dry.” Because of that, the ban on plastic jars solves the dilemma of what to do with peanut butter jars. Since you can’t thoroughly clean them without expending a whole lot of hot water and dish soap, and even then the residue clogs the plumbing as soon as it cools, the obvious answer is just to put the jars in the trash.
So,when they start mining landfills in a thousand years in a desperate search for scarce resources, future civilizations will no doubt be delighted to discover those indestructible jars with bits of peanut butter still inside. (hh)