Four hours after the factory shut down, the worker who had crawled into the depths of the conveyer belt finally finds the plastic bag that caused all the commotion. Carefully removing the bag, the worker wriggles free.
“It’s dangerous work,” says Lane County Waste Reduction Specialist Sarah Grimm. “It’s time consuming and the whole time the whole sort quality is compromised.”
That it’s OK to drop plastic bags in comingled recycling bins is just one dangerous misconception when it comes to recycling. Some items can be recycled but not in the comingled bin.
For example, under Oregon law, “white goods” such as stoves, washers, dryers and refrigerators are banned from landfill. However, Waste Management has 15 different transfer stations located throughout Lane County that will accept them with a $15 fee.
Other landfill no-nos that show up from time to time include televisions, computers, monitors and laptops. Grimm says that six of the transfer stations will take those items with no fee and, of course, so will companies like Goodwill. Grimm also advises not trashing florescent lights. Instead, take them to recycling locations.
Alkaline batteries should be thrown in the trash, but any battery that does not say “alkaline” can be taken to any of the transfer stations, as well as some companies like RadioShack.
Potential clog-causers also include hoses and hangers. Grimm says that plastic doesn’t always mean something is recyclable. The recycle insignia on plastic does not mean that it is recyclable either; it merely tells you the type of plastic it is.
Grimm says there is a guide to all Lane County recycling, including plastics, in the brown pages of the DEX phone book. She stresses that cups and frozen food boxes cannot be accepted due to their linings.
“Your recycler does not decide what is recyclable and what is not. We are responding to what manufacturers use,” Grimm says. “It’s all going to be based on their customer base — what customers are going to be willing to pay for.”
Despite what can go wrong with mixing up recyclables and difficulties with manufacturers, Grimm says she focuses on the positives.
“The potential as far as capturing and using our materials here at home is great,” Grimm says.
Lane County Waste Management holds master recycler courses that have trained more than 700 people in the community since the program started. Not only that, but recycling creates jobs.
“Recycling is an industry,” Grimm says. “You may send materials overseas but you cannot export the jobs.”
Think twice before you put plastic bags, frozen food boxes or paper cups in your comingled recycling bins. Take a look at your phone book to get a refresher on what you can and cannot recycle, or check out the info at http://wkly.ws/1p0. If you don’t educate yourself, you may end up doing more harm than good.