GENEVA – Residential recycling is more highly contaminated with non-recyclable garbage than ever before, according to reports from sorting facilities, Kane County Recycling Program Coordinator Jennifer Jarland said.
To address the increase in recycling contamination, the Illinois Task Force on Reducing Recycling Contamination was formed in May, Jarland said, and she is a member of it.
“People are just throwing garbage in the recycling,” Jarland said “Maybe they don’t care, or they are trying to do the right thing but they misunderstand what goes in there.”
One in four items in a recycling cart is not recyclable and plastics are a particular problem, so the task force addressed making it as easy to understand as possible, Jarland said.
“Plastic should be bottles, tubs, jugs and jars only, clean and lids attached,” Jarland said.
Glass should be bottles and jars only, clean with lids attached whether the lids are plastic or metal, she said.
Acceptable paper is flattened cardboard, office paper, newspaper and magazines; acceptable metal is steel and aluminum containers and foil.
“We’re trying to bring it down to the common denominator,” Jarland said. “We want everybody to just be putting things in the 'yes' section, that is all we want – things that are easily sorted and marketed.”
The task force identified the most common items placed in the recycling bins that are not recyclable – such as plastic bags, hangers, hoses, wire, cords, ropes, chains, clothing and shoes.
Other items people put into the recycling bins – that don't belong – include medical waste, syringes, batteries, plastic bags or wrap, electronics, scrap metal, Styrofoam, batteries, liquids, needles or shredded paper.
Haulers and sorting facility operators – together with government and business – developed simple, cohesive recycling education materials to help residents better understand what items should and should not be placed in recycling carts.
“Plastics are the most commonly misunderstood items,” Jarland stated in a news release. “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.”
Facilities report as much as 25 percent to 35 percent contamination in their recycling materials, which weighs down sorting, reduces commodity prices, affects the remanufacturing markets, and increases costs for local governments.
More information is available at www2.illinois.gov.