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Feb 14

Recycling Contaminants

Posted on February 14, 2019 at 11:06 AM by Regina Connelly

Contaminants

Most of us mean well when we put things we’re a little unsure of in the recycling bin. After all, if it’s wrong, they’ll “sort it out”, right? Sorta. However, seemingly harmless materials can end up becoming major contaminants to the recycling process and could end up ruining recycling for all of us. They create more work and increase costs for the local Material Recovery Facility (MRF).

Here are some common contaminants you may run into at home and how to do your part to stop them:

  • Plastic bags – This is one of the most common recycling contaminants. The good news is plastic bags are recyclable, just not through our single stream recycling system. You can bring them to one of our many local retailers who provide a plastic bag collection point.
  • Bagged recyclables – It’s pretty common for residents to collect recyclables in a bag before putting them to their recycling tote. With the #1 contaminate on the list being plastic bags, it’s easy to see why people might throw bagged recycling right in the bin. But, single stream recycling requires loose materials to be sorted properly. When they’re bagged, a worker needs to stop the process in order to manually remove the materials from the bag or the bags end up getting caught in gears, creating an even bigger headache. 
  • Scrap metal or other metal items – Old yard equipment, unwanted home products, or retired pots and pans can build up quicker than expected. Rather than just throwing them out, you can get a few extra bucks at the local scrap yard or bring them to a local collection program. Check out our metal page to find a drop-off location near you.
  • Small items under 2”x2”- Some items, even if they are made of recyclable materials, are too small for single stream recycling. They fall through the cracks during the sorting process and end up getting shipped off to the landfill. The biggest culprit? Plastic caps. The solution? KEEP THE CAP ON. That way the plastic makes it through the recycling journey. Otherwise, if it’s smaller than 2”x2”, find a way to repurpose it or save our friends at the MRF the trip and toss them right in your garbage bin.
  • Food/liquid waste – Most items we recycle were once filled with food or liquid. When that food or liquid end up in the MRF it spreads and contaminants the whole stream. The facility isn’t equipped to handle food waste so that means recyclable materials often end up where a resident never intended they go, the landfill. The best way to avoid this is to make sure our recyclables are emptied, rinsed or wiped clean before putting them in the bin. 
  • Textiles – Most old clothes, towels and sheets end up wasting precious landfill space when there’s likely a much better home for them. Our community has numerous amazing organizations that collect used textiles and help find them a new home. Not sure where to turn? We’ve got you covered. 
  • Tanglers – What’re tanglers you ask? Ropes, hose, wires and plastic film to name a few. And unfortunately, there’s no simple solution to recycling them. One thing is for sure, they don’t go in the recycling bin. Just like plastic bags they can get caught in gears and belts, leading to major disturbances in the recycling process. If your wires can be stripped down to bare metal you can probably make a few extra bucks by taking them where you take scrap metal. Plastic film can be recycled with your plastic bags. For hoses and ropes, we recommend trying one of the other 3 Rs. Check out these tips for reusing or repurposing before you throw them away.

  • Batteries – No matter what they claim, all batteries die eventually. Dead batteries can do a ton of damage in the recycling stream. They can puncture and cause dangerous conditions for workers, not to mention the contamination of other materials. The good news is there are many solutions for properly disposing of batteries, no matter the type. Check out our batteries page to find one that’s right for you.
  • Electronics – Outdated or broken electronics can pose a serious recycling conundrum. When they make it to the recycling center and eventually landfill they can have a similar impact to batteries but on a much bigger scale. But also, like batteries, Ontario Co. is working hard to make properly e-waste recycling easier. Check out the e-waste recycling page for tips and options for handling your e-waste.