How to keep your recycled items out of the landfill.
Finding ways to reuse products isn’t a new phenomenon. The idea has been around for centuries, but growing landfills, global warming, and impacts from the recent pandemic have added extra layers of pressure.
“With supply chain issues limiting the availability of raw materials throughout the U.S., it’s more important than ever to recycle, and re-cycle correctly,” says Lillian Kinard, manager of municipal sales for Republic Services.
The key word being “correctly.” While residents want to reduce and reuse through recycling, lack of education and industry hurdles have led to many individuals unknowingly recycling materials incorrectly, lead-ing to those increased landfill volumes.
THE RECYCLING PROCESS
Jefferson City partners with Republic Services and Ripple Glass to provide recycling options. Republic Services offers curbside single-stream recycling (when a resident tosses their recyclables in one container and places the container at the curb to be picked up) while Ripple Glass has placed four large purple bins at Save-A-Lot, McKay Park, Federal Recycling, and 2284 Hyde Park Road to collect glass.
In both situations, the two recycling companies take the materials and sort them and remove any trash or other visible contaminants. Once the materials are sorted, Republic Services packages the products into bails and sells them to companies. Ripple Glass crushes and cleans the glass before it’s sent to an Oklahoma bottle manufacturer that melts the glass into bottles.
“From the time you put (glass) into the bin, it could be back on the shelf as a bottle as soon as 30 days,” says Ripple Glass President MikePatterson. He went on to say that recycled glass melts at a 30% lower temperature than “virgin glass,” so there are additional energy savings.
Unfortunately, the issue is that many non-recyclable items find their ways into the bins Republic Services and Ripple Glass pick up. Republic Services’ curbside recycling only accepts plastic water bottles, plastic milk jugs, aluminum and tin cans, cardboard, and paper products. Non-recyclable items (i.e., glass, plastic bags, junk mail, diapers, food or yard waste, garden hoses, clothes or textiles, and electronics) are not accepted. Ripple Glass only accepts glass and can recycle metal lids, if necessary.
“Ripple Glass recycles 95-97% of materials that are thrown in the bins, with the remaining percentage going in the trash,” Mike says.
Republic Services, on the other hand, has a 25% contamination rate in Jefferson City — meaning a quarter of products in the recycling bins are thrown in the landfill. This rate is higher compared to the 21% nation-wide average of municipalities. However, some routes in other cities have a 50% or higher contamination rate, Lillian notes.
“The best performing cities, who have been educating residents literally for a generation or more, are in the high single digits,” Lillian says. “So, Jefferson City has the opportunity to improve to get to thenumbers we see from best performing cities.”
“This contamination rate is often due to “wish-cycling” — tossing non-recyclable items in with recyclable items,” she adds.
Residents assume if they toss a non-recyclable product in the single-stream curbside recycling container, Republic Services will simply pull it out and continue to recycle the rest of the box. However, the non-recyclable products may contaminate the entire bin, such as if grease from a dirty pizza box seeps into other cardboard. When this happens, all of the items in the bins are added to the growing landfills.
Instead of tossing non-recyclable items in with the curbside recycling, it is encouraged for residents to find other outlets to reuse the products, like donating clothing to a local donation center, tossing glass bottles in Ripple Glass containers, and placing plastic bags in local grocery stores’ recycling bins.
Before residents toss items into recycling bins, Lillian encourages them to follow these best practices:
Know what to throw out. Every community is unique, but you can generally always recycle aluminum cans, plastic bottles and milk jugs, cardboard, and paper products. However, check before you throw away those items.
Make sure they are empty, clean, and dry. Ensure each recyclable product does not have food or residue on or inside it. Rinse and dry it before placing it in the recycling bin.
Don’t bag it. Never put recyclable products in a bag before placing them in the recycling containers. Plastic bags can damage the sorting machines.
“Relish in the fact that you are making a difference one box, one bottle, one can at a time.”Mike Patterson
WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT
“If you’re ever not sure, just throw it in the trash,” Lillian says.Mike also recommends residents practice source recycling by visiting recycling centers, where residents can pre-sort materials into individual bins. While single-stream recycling is convenient, it leads to higher contamination rates.
“If you commingle things — especially if you throw your glass, your cardboard and your paper and aluminum all in one bin — and the glass breaks and gets into the aluminum and paper, it’s then too expensive to separate,” he says. “The recovery rate is much less than if you just collect each individually.”
GOING GREEN OUTSIDE OF RECYCLING
Recycling is often the go-to for residents, but there are dozens of other ways residents can “go green” — reusing items before immediately re-cycling them, decreasing single-use plastic, walking or riding a bicycle instead of driving to every destination, switching lights and appliances off when not being used, and going paperless in commercial offices.
While recycling correctly and finding ways to reduce and reuse products can require extra steps, Mike says it’s worth it in the end — decreasing waste and emissions, conserving natural resources, saving energy, and supporting recycling and manufacturing businesses.
“Relish in the fact that you are making a difference one box, one bottle, one can at a time,” he says. “It’s looking forward to today so there’s a better tomorrow.”Residents can visit RecyclingSimplified.com for recycling tips, videos, and other free resources to help them better understand how to recycle correctly.
Empty. Clean. Dry.
Single-stream recycling is available to Jefferson City residents through Republic Services. They accept clean and dry plastic water bottles, plastic milk jugs, aluminum and tin cans, cardboard, and paper products in blue roll-away curbside carts.
Trying to recycle unclean or unrecyclable material causes all kinds of avoidable problems. It increases sorting time, damages the sorting facility’s equipment, and contaminates the bales of clean recyclables. Recycling carts should only contain empty clean and dry cardboard, paper, metal cans, plastic bottles, and jugs.
NEVER PLACE THESE CONTAMINANTS IN THE RECYCLING CART:
Clothing and shoes; construction waste; diapers; electronics and batteries; food; greasy pizza boxes; medical waste; plastic bags and wrappers; polystyrene foam; scrap metal; soiled paper; tools; toys; yard waste.
For more information on single-stream recycling, visit recyclingsimplified.com
Where can I recycle these things?
Batteries + Bulbs,1922 Missouri Blvd., Suite F
Clothing + Shoes
Goodwill, 2821 S. Ten Mile Dr.
Salvation Army, 718 Michigan St.
American Red Cross, 431 E. McCarty St
Midwest Recycling Center, 1327 Missouri 179
New World Recycling, 2007 Idlewood Road (Plastic, aluminum, tin, paper, cardboard, electronics, copper, radiators, vehicle transmissions and batteries, and more)
Federal Recycling,2730 W. Main St.(Aluminum, tin, paper, cardboard and more)
Ripple Class Drop-offs:
Save A Lot, 1228 E.McCarty St.
2284 Hyde Park Rd.
2730 W. Main St.
McKay Park, 1700 South Ridge Dr.
(products that contain corrosive, toxic, flammable, or reactive ingredients)
Cole County Household Hazardous Waste Facility 2310 Hyde Park Rd.
Council for Drug Free YouthDrug Disposal Kiosks:
Walgreens, 2002 Missouri Blvd.
Capital Region Pharmacy, 1125 Madison St.
Roberts Drug Store, 3501 W. Truman Blvd.
Hyvee, 3721 W. Truman Blvd.
Yard Waste + Trimmings
Yard Waste Facility, 2417 South Ridge Dr.
For more information regarding where you can recycle and dispose of items, visit jeffersoncitymo.gov/government/trash_and_recycling.