What do I really need to know?
1. Know Before You Throw (A note on China's National Sword policy)
Recycling markets are rough right now, but when reading articles, remember to look for context and know your area. Each U.S. location is experiencing this downturn a little differently. Midwestern cities like Milwaukee often rely on domestic markets, so while supply of materials is high with everyone coming back home to find buyers and revenues subsequently dropping, Milwaukee is still recycling all of your accepted materials. Non-recyclable materials thrown into the blue recycling carts are sorted out at the MRF and sent to landfill.
Here's some good news. China's "National Sword" policy is a wake up call to the U.S. to work on lowering the contamination rate (level of unacceptable material) found in recyclable bales. All of those efforts will help us produce the best final product and maintain a healthy recycling industry. Challenge accepted. And now the best part. We can all help! The BEST things you can do to support a sustainable recycling industry with low contamination rates are #1 Know Before You Throw and #2 When in Doubt, Throw it Out.
Leave items loose in your recycling cart.
Don't bag your recyclables. Keeping materials loose allows them to be sorted appropriately at the MRF. If recyclables are bagged, they are often pulled off our high-speed, quality control belts as a contaminant.
If you're collecting in a bag, just empty those contents into your cart when ready.
Remember to break down and flatten cardboard boxes prior to your blue recycling cart.
With the likes of Amazon and Chewy available, there are a TON of cardboard boxes waiting at the curb these days. Some boxes are too large to fit into the back of our trucks, leading to more worker time on the street and at the back of their vehicles trying to fit boxes inside.
Flat boxes also compact much easier than full boxes, which can take up a lot of room and cause trucks to make multiple trips to the Material Recovery Facility. Not only will flattening boxes help you fit more recyclables in your cart, but it helps our drivers work quickly and safely on their routes.
Reminder to give your food and beverage containers a quick rinse before you recycle them.
Food and beverages are considered contaminants in your recycling cart. Food residue in containers are sorted as trash, but decomposing food can contaminate other clean materials. This may lead to more products being redirected to the landfill or lowering the value of those marketable materials.
So remember to empty and give a quick rinse. If there's too much food that you can't remove, it's best to place in your garbage cart.
5. No Plastic Bags, Please!
We mentioned you should not bag your recyclables, but a friendly reminder that plastic bags should never be in your blue recycling cart.
Plastic bags wrap around the MRF equipment and end up in final product bales as "residue", lowering market value and demand for our materials. When wrapped around equipment, materials can't fall through at the appropriate equipment locations for sorting. The recycling system must shut down while team members harness up to cut the bags out.
Help keep workers safe and our process running, by taking plastic bags to a store drop off. Check your local grocery store for a list of the plastic bags and films they accept in their collection boxes.