This article was originally published in the Teton Valley News on January 1, 2015. It is republished with permission.
Happy New Year! This month is a great time to set a goal to waste less and recycle more. However, it is possible to take this goal too far. When non-recyclable items are thrown in the recycling bins, it takes staff time and energy to sort them out, and that costs our county money.
Non-recyclable items also contaminate the materials collected. The higher the contamination rate, the lower the price the county receives for the recyclables. Loads with too much contamination could be rejected and sent to a landfill. To keep the Teton County recycling program profitable, it is important to sort your recyclables properly and keep contaminants out. Here are a few things that you shouldn’t recycle:
Pizza boxes – You wouldn’t recycle a used paper plate just because it is a paper product, would you? You shouldn’t recycle pizza boxes, either! The grease and chunks of food on the box contaminate the cardboard loads, and it doesn’t take much to make the load unsellable.
Plastic food tubs –Teton County collects and recycles the plastics that it can sell for a profit, #1 and #2 plastic bottles. The plastic used in non-bottle #1 and #2 plastic items, such as lettuce tubs, is a cheaper plastic with dyes and additives that prevent it from being recycled along with bottles. Some neighboring counties accept other plastics, but that doesn’t mean they are actually recycling them. Save the gas and put non-recyclable plastics in the trash. Better yet, choose food items with less packaging to avoid non-recyclable plastics.
Receipts – Thermal receipts contain bisphenal-A, a chemical that has been linked to developmental issues and cancer. Recycling receipts keeps the chemical in circulation, where it will show back up in recycled products. Refuse receipts when possible. When you receive a receipt, dispose of it in the trash and wash your hands thoroughly before touching other items or eating.
Motor oil containers – You can recycle your motor oil, but please throw the plastic container in the trash, even if it is a #1 or #2 plastic bottle. The oil in the bottle will contaminate the plastic bale.
Foam – Before you recycle cardboard boxes, remember to empty them of foam blocks and bubble wrap.
Plastic coated paper products – Teton County, Idaho accepts many different kinds of paper for recycling, including office paper, newspaper, magazines, phone books, and envelopes. The facilities that process recycled paper can handle the plastic window on your envelope or a staple. They cannot handle paper products that are coated in plastic, such as padded envelopes and cartons.
Ornaments – The transfer station is happy to accept your Christmas tree in the brush pile, but make sure you remove the ornaments first!
The dedication of recyclers in Teton Valley supports a sustainable recycling program. However, keeping a few items out of the recycling bins will increase the value of recyclables while saving our solid waste department time and money.
Tanya Anderson is the outgoing executive director of Teton Valley Community Recycling. For more information, visit tetonrecycling.org.