Last week’s column about new recycling rules definitely struck a chord. A lot of readers said they were similarly surprised and disappointed about how they needed to change their habits.
If you missed it, you can see it at www.ohio.com/topics/betty.
I’m not going to rehash it all, but the bottom line is that we as consumers need to adapt to the market conditions in the recycling resale market. China is the world’s largest buyer of recycled raw materials and their standards of what they will purchase has changed since contamination of recycled materials (with things that are not recyclable or don’t have an aftermarket for reuse) was getting so high.
Current recyclable materials are plastic bottles and jugs, metal cans, paper, cartons and cardboard. You’ll want to take a look at the graphic I had with last week’s column, which will give you more detail.
Also in another display of how quickly things change, on Monday, the city of Akron and Simple Recycling announced that its partnership was ending immediately. Simple Recycling has had contracts with Akron and other municipalities to take clothes, accessories and small appliances in the green and orange bags. In Akron, residents now are encouraged to take usable donations to a local charity. The company did not respond to an inquiry about whether it was ending other area programs. Cuyahoga Falls Deputy Service Director Teresa Hazlett said its community program is still on.
So let’s dive into some more information:
Q: What about glass?
A: I addressed glass in the graphic with the following asterisk since I was limited for space, but it seems many readers missed it: "Please note: Glass is still up for review within the industry and recyclers. The advice is to throw it away unless your community says they will accept it (like Cuyahoga Falls).”
Here's more information: Glass recycling is a hot topic right now and is discussed frequently, said Marcie Kress, executive director of ReWorks, the Summit County Solid Waste District tasked with educating about recycling and reducing waste to the landfill. Most communities, like Akron, have chosen to say they will not accept glass. In Cuyahoga Falls, Charles Novak, superintendent of streets and sanitation, said glass is still accepted. However, the city is paying its processor to take glass, so the city may change its mind.
Kress said there are some Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) in southern Ohio that will accept and process glass, but it is not economical at this time for haulers to take glass there.
“The message is in flux right now — because glass recycling is in a state of flux.”
Q: I'm getting different answers from what you published from my hauler/community/flyers. Who is right?
A: I noticed this as well as I was researching information for this column. I'm told communities and haulers are doing their best to keep up with the rapidly changing rules and ReWorks is working with them on communication. That’s why ReWorks said they were hoping my column would help get the updated message out to consumers.
Even this week, some readers were getting different answers when they made their own calls. Kress said she has spoken to all of the haulers/MRs who work in Summit County and the information shared in the column and graphic about what is currently recyclable is accurate.
Q: I don’t live in Summit County. Are these rules universal?
A: Recycling rules are directly related to the MRF that takes the material, said Kress. The rules apply to all Summit County communities and the majority of the surrounding counties. The majority of the recycling rules will also apply elsewhere, but there are small variations depending on MRF capabilities and markets.
The China market restriction of recycled material applies to all of the U.S., but check with your local waste management district.
Q: I buy blue “recycling” bags sold at grocery stores. Are they OK?
A: Plastic bags of any sort — even if a company is marketing them at the store as “recycle” bags — should not be put in curbside recycling. As I mentioned last week, they can go in the store plastic bag recycling bins for shopping bags and other stretchable plastic.
Q: What about plastic frozen dinners/snacks trays?
A: All plastic food or take-out containers/trays are not recyclable. (I reuse sturdier ones for work lunches). Only plastic that is a bottle or a jug is recyclable at this time. Also, clear plastic or paper/cardboard cups from fast-food or coffee shops or red Solo plastic cups are not recyclable.
Q: Can metal parts from lawn mowers be recycled?
A: Automotive or lawn mower metal parts are not recyclable and can be a hazard on MRF conveyor belts, said Kress. Only metal beverage and food cans are recyclable. Scrap metal can go to a local dealer for purchase.
Q: I save the plastic newspaper delivery bags for a month or so, and put them back in the Beacon tube for my delivery lady to use again. Who knows how many times they can be used over and over again!
A: Shaun Schweitzer, GateHouse director of distribution for Northern Ohio, said that’s a great idea and readers can leave a note to see if your carrier would like bags in good condition back since carriers purchase the bags. The bags can also be put into the grocery store bag recycling bins.
Q: Is it possible these rules will be updated?
A: Yes. The recycling industry and aftermarket are constantly changing, Kress said. For instance, milk, juice, soup, broth and food cartons are relatively new recyclable items. That’s because the carton industry worked on technology to find an after-market, she said.
Q: If I can’t put shredded paper in the curbside recycling, what should I do?
A: If you compost, you can add it to your compost bin or burn it in a bonfire (if your community allows bonfires). Paper recycling bins around at some area schools and churches will also take the shredded paper. The River Valley bins (the ones with flowers) will take shredded paper loose or in plastic bags or you can drop it off from 7 to 11 a.m. Saturdays during River Valley’s free shredding service at its location at 131 N. Summit St. The Paper Retriever (green and yellow bins) request that shredded paper not be bagged.
Beacon Journal consumer columnist and medical reporter Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty.