Article by Dan Baxter
Single Stream or Co-Mingled recycling is largely available for residents and businesses throughout most of Hampton Roads. Single Stream Recycling has been a wonderful convenience to our residents and has reduced the use of landfill space and providing valuable material to reprocess and manufacture into new products. Recycling, as an industry is running into some challenges. World markets (Particularly in China) have seen a downturn in commodity prices, oil prices worldwide have declined decreasing the value of plastics, newsprint is not in demand as it once was, finally there is contamination of the recycled materials. Contamination is something we can all help to reduce and prevent.
Did you know that during audits of our residential recycling program in Newport News, contamination of single stream recycling can comprise between 6 and 30 %? This is according to periodic audits of residential recycling done in Newport News.
Most of the contamination is preventable. There are several notable items that do not belong in curbside recycling such as; plastic grocery bags, styrofoam, rigid plastics (Toys car parts), dog leashes, garden hoses, clothing, diapers (Infant, child and adult) , food contaminated paper/cardboard, egg cartons and wax coated cardboard (Milk and juice cartons). While some of these items are recyclable in programs in other parts of the country, they are not here in Hampton Roads. Some of these items, such as plastic grocery bags, are recyclable at grocery stores.
Contamination causes a great deal of problems for Material Recovery Facilities and processors locally and nationwide. Locally, misplaced materials can cause equipment to jam and possible injury to personnel. Did you know that plastic grocery bags in the residential recycling carts can shut down a facility for up to two hours per day? Plastic bags have to be cut out of the gears and moving parts of the machinery. Foreign material also significantly devalue recycled material. This causes a major cost to the processors and that cost is passed on to municipalities and other organizations that recycle.
What can you do? “Recycle More Right” by knowing what goes into your residential container, go to www.askhrgreen.org and download the information on what goes into your recycling container and share it with neighbors and friends. Participate in a recycling audit or organize your own and see what a representative sample of recycling is comprised of The next Recycling Audit in Newport News will be announced shortly. We invite organizations and individuals to participate in the effort. For more information, contact the Newport News Resource Recovery Center at 757-886-7612