Some dos and don’ts for local recycling

Published 10:11 am Thursday, November 7, 2013

Column: Solid Waste Officer, by Randy Tuchtenhagen

There was a lot of interest from people who visited our booth at the fair this year. The Freeborn County Environmental Services Department had examples of items people can now recycle like the drink containers in your refrigerator.

Yes, the wax-coated milk and juice containers are recyclable. Even ones that have a foil liner inside them. A representative from the Carton Council contacted me a few weeks ago and sent a photo ad showing all the different kinds of containers they want us to recycle. Through an agreement with our recycling vendor, Waste Management, there is now a market for items we previously did not accept.

Randy Tuchtenhagen

Randy Tuchtenhagen

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With new technology comes the ability to do a job quicker, easier and with reduced problems or failures. This is the future of recycling processing facilities as well.

Remember when we had to remove the shiny inserts in newspapers? They also would not accept them if they were wet. Not the case in markets today. New recycling processes, new machinery and better technology allows recycling of more items, and they do not have to be sorted into different bins, have labels removed or be sparkling clean. On the sparkling clean issue, we don’t want flies, odors or maggots to accumulate in your recycling container so it’s a good idea to rinse them.

Two things continue to be problematic.

Some people will not quit putting plastic bags in their cans. We have tried leaving notes and got them back again two weeks later inside a plastic bag. We tried leaving the plastic bag filled with recyclables only to anger the homeowner. Do not use plastic bags for recycling. Empty the bag into your can and take it back inside your home to re-use over and over again. No plastic bags, no exception. Recycling is now automated and machines do not open plastic bags.

The other issue is string or twine used to tie paper in bundles. In past years we told people to tie paper bundles to keep them from spilling or blowing on windy days. The automated sorting machines cannot cut or untie bundles so from now on do not tie with a string. Put all your fibre (paper items) into a paper sack and put the sack inside the recycling bin. Wet or damp paper is not as serious an issue it once was, but the recyclability of paper is better if dry.

When we start using the new recycling carts simply place your sacks of paper into the cart as you fill them. Yes, we will still want all paper in a paper sack. On windy days the lid could blow open and paper would litter the neighborhood.

Also the cart will be about 12 to 15 feet off the ground when being emptied by the fully automated truck and loose paper could easily blow out. Just put all fibre materials into a paper sack and place the sack into the recycling bin. Do not tie them shut, and put all paper into one sack, mixed. It’s OK to mix.

Hopefully you will fill two or three sacks with junk mail, newspaper, magazines, cereal boxes, pop cartons and the drink and juice boxes like I mentioned above. Paper recycling market demand is increasing so we want all the paper you can find to recycle.

Our county does a great job of recycling, and we’ll continue to try and make it easier and find more items to recycle through new processing technology.


Randy Tuchtenhagen is the Freeborn County solid waste officer.