A version of this article was first published by the Red Rock News on Wednesday January 16th under the title,
“How to recycles plastics properly”
by Jill McCutcheon, Sedona Recycles (a founding Alliance member) (edited by Darcy Hitchcock)
Markets for many recyclables are collapsing
Sedona Recycles has always made it a point to try to sell recyclables to domestic mills for remanufacture. We pride ourselves on exceptionally clean collected, processed and baled material. In this case it didn’t matter, everyone who was exporting materials now needed domestic homes for their recyclables. The markets were saturated. This was the perfect buyer’s market but not a good one for those doing the recycling.
Clean, uncontaminated recyclables are key
In 2019 as a result of changes in the recycling world, clean material is where it’s at.
When you recycle with Sedona Recycles, you help by separating materials first. Then, we carefully sort the materials to maximize the quality and value of the materials.
Other facilities have had to take a long hard look at what commingled recycling. This is where all recycling is dumped into one container (although combining trash and recycling in one container is even worse.) Comingled recycling has produced contaminated feedstock for remanufacturing. For a very long time they got away with it because China accepted their material, but not anymore.
What you can do to help
So, what can you do?
Purchase thoughtfully. As consumers we need to be conscious of what we purchase. Remember, REDUCE comes before REUSE and RECYCLING is the last option before the landfill. Avoid over-packaging. Where there are choices, choose larger containers and less packaging. Here are a few examples:
Buy lettuce loose. Avoid buying greens in #1 plastic boxes. I can’t find anyone to take them. They have 3 very specific problems: Other similarly shaped containers get mixed with them causing contamination, the adhesive used to affix the labels does not wash off easily and they are treated with UV protectant and silicone. Avoiding this packaging is difficult, especially for berries, but we need to try. Please do not include these boxes in your recycling.
Bring your own water bottle. Stop buying single use water bottles. Here's a fact sheet that should shock you.
When eating, out refuse the take out container if it is Styrofoam or clear plastic. The only currently recyclable take out containers are cardboard and number 5. You can always ask for a piece of foil which we can include with our metals. Or come prepared with your own reusable container.
Only choose plastics that can be recycled now. In 2019 we need to get real and not pretend that the chasing-arrows on plastic means plastics are recyclable. In many cases, 'recyclable' cannot be recycled because no one will take the material.
Here are some simple rules to follow when purchasing products in plastic for the current market:
Clear bottles with the #1 are acceptable; they can be clear, blue, brown or green as long as you can see through them. They must be bottles, not other shapes.
Buy milk and any liquid you can in #2 plastic (not paperboard or shelf-stable boxes). We can always recycle these bottles. Examples are milk jugs and detergent bottles.
Buy #5 packaging. This material is used for yogurt, cottage cheese, cups and ice tea containers to name a few. We can take these and hopefully this will continue.
We really try our best at the center to do things responsibly and sometimes that means we have to make changes to what we take to be honest to those of you who bring us and drop off your materials.
Let’s all try this year to buy less and recycle more. You can always visit www.sedonarecycles.org to see what is recyclable and what isn’t.