Crested Butte recycling changes can help with efficiency

Stay aware not to contaminate the whole batch

By Mark Reaman

So far this year, Crested Butte area residents have recycled almost 231 tons of material through the area’s primary trash collector, Waste Management. November 15 was America Recycles Day and Anne Spitza of WM said that CB diverted approximately 30% of its waste stream to “beneficial reuse.”

Spitza said that recyclables collected here in the North Valley are transported to the company’s Denver Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) for sorting and processing. Crested Butte clients were recently provided new bins and Spitza said those should help make recycling easier.

“The new curbside recycling bins allow customers to comingle materials – and put all accepted recycling into a single bin without pre-sorting,” she said. “The larger bins allow residents to recycle more materials and easily roll them to the curb. The lid also helps keep out rain, snow and other contaminants from the recyclables. WM’s recycling sorting facilities (called material recovery facilities or MRFs) have high tech sorting equipment that utilizes screens, optical scanners, magnets and more to effectively sort and separate accepted materials.”

Waste Management’s MRFs annually sort and recover more than 226,000 tons – that’s 452 million pounds – of recycled cardboard, paper, metal, glass and viable plastic in Colorado. These materials are bailed by the ton and shipped to legitimate sources including U.S. manufacturers that reuse the materials to make new products.

Spitza said contamination is an issue everywhere and individuals should be careful how they recycle. “What one household puts in their recycling carts can impact an entire truckload of recycling. The materials you put into your curbside recycling cart are unloaded into a WM collection truck and comingled with the materials all your neighbors recycle. So, if someone incorrectly puts liquids, food waste or yard waste, for example, into their recycling cart, these unwanted materials may contaminate and ruin the paper or cardboard they come in contact with inside the truck. Viable recyclables that are ruined by water, contaminated by food residue, or damaged by soggy grass clippings cannot go on to be reused.

Spitza explained that recycling contamination problems in the Crested Butte area are like most areas. Approximately 20% of the materials put into recycling carts are not on the list of accepted items. Items most commonly put into recycling that do not belong there include plastic bags, food and liquids, and textiles.

“When it comes to what plastics to recycle it’s best to go by shape – recycling only plastics shaped like bottles, jugs, jars or tubs,” she said. “Food containers do not need to be spic-n-span clean but scrape away as much food residue as possible before recycling plastic, glass and metal food cans and jars.”

Spitza said all the materials that are not accepted in curbside recycling and any materials seriously ruined by contamination need to be removed from the stream because no manufacturer wants low-quality, soiled recycled materials to reuse to make their new products. “The more people in a community who practice proper recycling habits, the less contamination that ends up in the recycling stream, and the more successful the community’s overall recycling program will be,” she concluded.

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