What is and what is not recyclable?

Published 8:42 am Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Column: Randy Tuchtenhagen, Solid Waste Officer

What is recyclable and what is not? These are questions asked, some frequently. Since not everything is recyclable it may be time to review some recycling options.

Randy Tuchtenhagen

Glass beverage containers are recyclable but care should be taken not to break them. We cannot recycle ceramic or canning jars because of how the glass is re-used. Window glass is not recyclable because it contains lead.

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Keep in mind that not all plastic containers are the same makeup and some have no recycling value. Just because you see the triangle chasing arrows does not mean it can be recycled. This symbol tells us “what kind” of plastic, not whether it can be recycled. Check the number inside the arrows to see if it’s acceptable. It should be a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 7 to be acceptable. Machinery to sort and process recyclables generally will not accept items larger than a gallon. No large pails or barrels.

Shrink wrap, popcorn packaging materials and Styrofoam packaging cannot be recycled, at least not curbside. However, there are businesses that must purchase these materials for shipping purposes. Since they do not have a shelf life and can be used over and over, think about re-use rather than trashing. If you don’t know of a place that could re-use your packaging materials, call our office.

Plastic bags: milk, grocery, softener salt and dog/cat food sacks are items we are frequently asked about. The answer is no, they are not recyclable, curbside. Again, re-use is an option since some bags are heavy duty and withstand reuse.

Ideas for re-use are to hold yard waste and pet manure, secondary containment for a leaky container, or other item on the storage shelf. These bags make good heavy duty liners for the trash can. Milk bags can hold your kitchen compostable waste before taking it out to the compost bin.

Think about disposal of bags before making a purchase and you can reduce the number of them in advance of a purchase instead the other way around. Because some people continue to place plastic bags into recycling we are starting a program to warn people about contamination. No plastic bags, no exception. I recently contacted the recycling center and they are quite adamant: No plastic bags. It’s time to obtain some of those nice cloth re-usable bags for shopping. Be sure to keep them clean.

By using the local radio station shows “Party Line” and “Trading Post” there are options to advertise inexpensively. Newspaper special additions, fliers and private publications like the Freeborn County Co-op Electric often offer space to advertise. Your item for reuse should have value to others of course.

In the past our office has assisted people to recycle or re-use items instead of trashing them. When we host a booth at the Home and Recreation Show or the Freeborn County Fair, stop by our booth and check out the latest recycling/reuse items.

In the past we found homes for storage containers, pails, screwdriver handles, plastic boxes and other interesting items. If you have something that may be of value to someone else, check around before throwing it away. It may save you some money.

The advertising has begun for county-sponsored collections such as household hazardous waste and electronics. Be sure to watch for the Community News magazine and other local news media for information about time and dates for these collections.

Randy Tuchtenhagen is the solid waste officer for Freeborn County.