One of the easiest ways to observe Earth Day, this coming Monday, April 22, is to review your recycling practices at home and work.
You may think you’re doing the Earth a favor by tossing that greasy old pizza box in your curbside single-stream bin, when actually, you could be gumming up the system meant to keep recyclables out of a landfill.
So... what can go in that 96-gallon blue-lidded bin? And what can’t?
Jeremy Walters is the community relations manager for Republic Services. He said people have good intentions when they separate things for recycling, but not everything people put into the bin should be going there.
Walters said that Republic Services separates the recyclables and ships them off to a third party that actually processes them for reuse. If, for instance, a grease-covered pizza box gets into a paper mill it could ruin an entire batch of recyclable paper.
"Not all paper is created equal," Walters said, "Your paper plates, your napkins, your paper towels -- those are not recyclable items."
Some of the items that are recyclable are water bottles, milk jugs and laundry detergent containers, along with plastic containers for foods such as sour cream and yogurt.
Walters says you don't have to worry about scrubbing those containers clean; just rinse them out and let them dry. He also discourages people from putting recyclable items in another container or bag.
"We have a very large recycling center, and it moves very fast," he said, "We get some very interesting items coming across our lines that really shouldn't be there, to begin with... Our sorters are so focused on trying to pull those large items out, they don't have the time to try to pry open a bag and see if there is recyclable material in there."
There is a second kind of recycling that goes on in Southern Nevada, outside the household waste. Western Elite hauls, separates and recycles waste from construction and other industrial sites.
Vice President Scott Seastrand said they take concrete and crush it into products that can be used again for things like road construction.
They take yard trimmings from landscapers and turn it into compost by adding food waste from Strip resorts. They also recycle as much steel as they can, because it is one of the most marketable products in the recycling business.
Seastrand said the value of recycling is really one of the toughest parts of the business.
"The cost of pulling it out and bundling it and being able to sell it to a broker, you have to be able to receive enough value in order to actually sustain (that)," he said.
Walters said the same is true for household recyclables, which is why people should look at reducing the amount of stuff they throw away to begin with. The best solutions for reducing the amount of waste going to landfill are to reuse items and find reusable versions of items you frequently throw away, he said. For example, buy a refillable water bottle instead of buying bottled water.
And as for the plastic grocery bags that can't be recycled, Walters encourages everyone to take them to the grocery store, where they have bins to recycle them, or replace them entirely with reusable bags.
What Republic Services accepts:
- Junk Mail
- Phone Books
- Aluminum beverage cans
- Food cans
- Aluminum foil
- Ream wrappers
- File Folders
- Poster Board
- Frozen Food/Cereal boxes
- Cardboard boxes
- Water bottles
- Soda bottles
- Milk jugs
- Food containers
- Glass bottles
- Glass jars
- Grocery bags or light-weight, bendable plastics like dry cleaning bags
- Styrofoam containers/cups
- Food scraps
- Yard clippings
- Pizza boxes
- Wax-coated cardboard
For more information: recyclingsimplified.com
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