SEATTLE (Waste Advantage): Places like Buffalo Recycling Enterprises are doing their best to hand-sort, bale and ship plastic off to mills. Operations Manager Fenna Mandolang knows it’s harder when things that can’t be recycled end up there. “We do sometimes have 25 upward to 30% contamination in the recycling,” she said. Most of that is complete trash. But some of it is ‘wish-cycling.’ “It may go all the way through the sorting process and then it has to be shipped one more time to pay for the gas and the time of the driver, all the way back to the landfill,” Mandolang said.
That’s why education is key for Susan Attridge, Buffalo’s director of recycling. “Plastics are becoming more and more complicated as the switches really occur for the single-use plastics that people can’t use again and the markets are not coming into place to help recycle them,” Attridge said. So just because that recycling triangle is on something, doesn’t mean it’s good to go.
“A milk container, juice, those cardboard [items] with the plastic outside. I really want to recycle those, and I used to be able to recycle them, but I can’t now,” said Attridge. “So it’s really frustrating for me to take something that I used to be able to recycle and put it in the garbage. But I do because I honor and respect for recycling system.” That means not trying to recycle things like plastic bags, which can clog up machines. “Turn it over if there’s a one, a two or a five on it, and it’s a takeout container, you can put that in your green tote,” Attridge said. “Otherwise, it goes in the garbage.” It’s a little bit of extra effort That goes a long way.
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