I’ve been getting a lot of feedback and follow-up questions about my columns on recycling — this is my fourth.

People are passionate about recycling.

It has been upsetting to many that the rules have changed and fewer things are now accepted through community curbside recycling efforts.

To recap, there have been recent changes to recycling nationwide as China, the largest purchaser of recycled materials, has cracked down on what it will buy. Too many bundles of recycled materials have become contaminated with other materials, making them worthless.

Current recyclable materials are plastic bottles and jugs (throw away the caps), aluminum and metal cans, paper, cartons and cardboard. 

Readers have had a hard time accepting that plastics we’re used to recycling (including sour cream and yogurt containers, salad, strawberry and take-out containers) are no longer recyclable and neither is glass. While glass is still “under review,” there are not recycling facilities close enough that take glass to make it economically feasible to recycle. In the Akron area, glass is only accepted in Cuyahoga Falls, which is paying its recycler to accept glass.

Thanks to an astute West Akron reader, I have found another potential solution for recycling those other plastics at Target stores.

Marcie Kress, executive director of ReWorks, the Summit County agency, is tasked with educating the public about residential recycling and reducing landfill waste. She said she appreciates and understands that people are concerned and want to do what’s best.

“However, it is important that we acknowledge doing what is best for recycling can change. What was recyclable in the past does not necessarily mean it is recyclable now,” said Kress, whose agency coordinates with others statewide and nationally.

This is a nationwide issue. There are some communities across the U.S. considering stopping curbside recycling efforts, citing the high cost. Others are considering legislation to make manufacturers pay for recycling efforts. Opponents say the manufacturers will make consumers foot the bill by increasing costs of goods.

Reducing use of single-use items is one way consumers can also stem the flow of recyclables and landfill use, Kress said.

Kress also addressed a trend called “wish-cycling,” where consumers put things they “wish” were still recyclable into the curbside bins.

“Wishcycling, though it comes from a good intention, actually gets in the way of proper curbside recycling,” she said. “These are added costs both financially as well as environmentally ... residents ‘wishcycling’ are putting curbside recycling at risk.”

Here are some more Q&As from readers:

Q: I saw a recycling station inside the entrance at my Target. The sign shows four bins: plastic bags; trash; glass, plastics, aluminum; and MP3, cellphone, ink cartridges. Will Target take some of the recyclables that we can’t put in curbside recycling?

A: This one took some digging and lots of back and forth with a helpful media-relations person at Minneapolis-based Target headquarters.

I wanted to make sure Target actually takes these items to facilities that can recycle them.

“People can trust they know when they drop off their recycling at Target, it’ll be recycled,” my contact said.

Target takes the materials dropped off at its community recycling stations — in the lobbies of all of its stores — to a regional distribution center and then to recycling facilities.

He said he could not get into too much detail about vendors or why Target is still able to recycle some things that residential programs can’t, but reassured me that the items are recycled. My guess is it could have to do with commercial recycling streams or Target using its position as a massive retailer and volume (the retailer also has its own backroom recycling programs for cardboard used within the retail operations).

However, before consumers start descending on Target with loads of recyclables, let's keep in mind that this is a service Target is offering to complement curbside recycling, not to be our primary recycler.

Realistically, I’m not sure how many consumers are going to go to the extra effort to collect their “other” recyclables and take them to the store on their next Target run. It is probably going to depend on how convenient or inconvenient it is to them. But it’s a welcome option.

Additionally, Target offers a car-seat trade in event — one is coming in April — where the retailer accepts all car seats and has a vendor that will recycle them into other products. This is particularly helpful because many charities do not accept car seats. For more information, go to https://tinyurl.com/yyzwen54

Q: Why are some community recycling companies still saying they accept all plastics and glass?

A: ReWorks is working to address the issue and understands the frustration with some inconsistent messages.

The best way to support the curbside recycling programs is to focus on what can be effectively collected at the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF): plastic bottles and jugs, metal cans, cartons, cardboard and paper.

Additionally, the message is slow to spread to a public that is used to the old rules. Some communities regionally and nationally are just starting to share the new rules.

Q: Can I put old bound books in the recycle container?

A: Libraries and Goodwill are a better route for books so they can be reused. ReWorks suggests staying focused on plastic jugs and bottles, metal cans, cartons, cardboard and paper. If you look at the item in question and it is not on that list, then do not place it into the curbside recycling cart, Kress said.

Q: What about electronics, other than TVs or computers, such as DVD players?

A: Electronics should not be placed in curbside recycling. Potential reuse for electronics still in working order is best, so check with your favorite charity. Goodwill asks that donated small electronics still work.

Q: If flat foil pans get spit out because the machine thinks they are cardboard, what happens if I crumple them up into balls?

A: Again, ReWorks says to stay focused on what is recyclable: plastic jugs and bottles, metal cans, cartons, cardboard and paper.

 

Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/topics/linfisher