I share trash and recycling with my neighbor, a prominent business person in our community. When I go to add my recycling, I find things like toothpaste tubes, plastic bags and candy bar wrappers inside the recycling bin. Can you please help educate people about the consequences of adding trash to our recycling? Thanks and please sign me, Anonymous.
It’s been four years since the city established single-stream recycling. So you’d think people would know the drill.
A look inside any blue bin will tell you otherwise. Why do people taint the bins? Why is recycling so difficult? Action Line scoured the web for facts.
It was stunning. But not for the facts that were scoured. It was that Action Line would bother getting facts in the first place.
As you know, Action Line’s mantra is: “Never allow truth to get in the way of a good story.”
Be that as it may, according to numerous studies and surveys, there are generally two types of non-recyclers. First, there are folks who just don’t care. Recycling is an inconvenient hassle. Apparently, about 20 percent of the U.S. population falls into this category.
Then there are the Recycle Deniers, an angry 4 percent sliver of Americans who see dumping trash in recycling as an act of defiance to show who’s boss.
Deliberately mixing plastic Slim Jim wrappers with cardboard is their haughty ploy to annoy the hoity-toity hoi polloi. It’s the solid-waste equivalent of “rolling coal.”
Not surprisingly, those who are openly hostile toward blue bins and green practices mostly live in red states. Consider that your political color commentary.
Meanwhile, closer to home, Durango’s hard-working recycling crews do a yeoman’s job of keeping impurities out of bales of recycling that are sold to commodities markets.
“We really try to catch contaminants and remove them,” said Joey Medina, recycling and trash manager for the city. Durango has improved the purity of recycling in the past couple of years. Still, “sometimes there’s a glass problem,” he said. In case you didn’t know, glass can be recycled, but separately from Durango’s single-stream system.
If recycling contains garbage, hazardous materials, plastic wrap, light bulbs, Styrofoam, scrap metal or other detrimental detritus, the entire load must go to the landfill, Joey added. So that’s the major consequence of mixing trash with recyclables.
For business owners, there can be fines for tainted recycling, ranging from $11.78 to $58.94, depending on the size of the contaminated container. “So if you’re not sure if it’s recyclable, keep it out,” Joey advised.
The city’s recycling program has had some impressive successes. Joey pointed out that last year, the program diverted 3,953 tons of material away from the landfill. Still, there’s room for improvement. Visit DurangoRecycles.com for awesome info and a handy printable poster of what can and can’t be in your can.
For example, did you know that you should remove all caps from recyclable containers and jugs? Plates, cups and utensils cannot be in single-stream even though they’re “compostable.”
Then there was this: “Flower pots and garden plastics” shouldn’t go into recycling either. Action Line, an obsessive gardener, was aghast at reading this on the city’s website.
If the city only knew the staggering number of washed, black, plastic, gallon pots Action Line lovingly placed in the blue bin lo these past four growing seasons.
Talk about being a recycling recidivist who only learns by trowel and error. Mea culpa, indeed.
Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if you hire a cleaning service to remove your carbon footprint.