Skip to main content

Sandy Journal

Check before you chuck: Make sure you're recycling right

Sep 05, 2019 03:53PM ● By Stephanie DeGraw

Plastic bags can jam up recycling. (Photo courtesy Waste Management)

by Stephanie DeGraw | [email protected]

Next time you pat yourself on the back for recycling, stop and double-check what you put in the recycling bin. You could be ruining the whole process without realizing it. Correct recycling is now an even more timely issue since China will not be accepting all of the waste it once did as of 2020. 

China has started to restrict not only contaminated waste but also particular recyclables including office paper, junk mail, magazines and most plastics, according to Paul Browning, Sandy City assistant public works director. Over the past 20 years, China has been the primary market for recyclables from across the world. 

"Most people do wish-cycling and not recycling," Browning said. "They hope it's recyclable and that it gets sent to the proper place, but it may not be allowed in the city's program. Unfortunately, these small mix-ups add up to enormous consequences for the long-term viability of recycling." 

Browning encourages people to be careful about what they put in the curbside bins so the garbage doesn't become contaminated. Put your recyclables in the container directly. Don't put them in a plastic bag in the bin. Plastic bags contaminate the recycling process. Some grocery stores will accept your plastic bags. For a list of places, visit www.plasticfilmrecycling.org

Other plastics that don't belong in a recycling receptacle include degradable bags, salad bags and frozen food bags. Also, don't add candy bar wrappers, potato-chip bags or drink six-pack rings. "Anything that ends up in a recycling bin that does not belong is a contaminant," Browning said. 

Often people are in the habit of throwing whatever they want, including pizza boxes, wire hangers, ketchup bottles and yogurt containers, into the bin. Waste management is more complicated when recycling is not clean. 

"That's why we encourage folks to keep it simple and focus on recycling clean bottles, cans, paper and cardboard. All other items, including food, liquids and plastic bags, should stay out of the recycling cart. When in doubt, throw it out," Four Corners Area Communications Director of Waste Management Jennifer N. Rivera said. 

She noted that plastic bags, garden hoses, string, holiday lights and plastic wrap jam up the company's sorting machines and bring operations to a halt. Workers then have to stop the equipment to cut off tangled materials several times per day. This situation can be dangerous to workers when items such as medical needles, pool chemicals and propane tanks are hiding in the garbage. 

Domestic and export markets now require high-quality recyclable materials with little to no contamination, Rivera said. For example, in Salt Lake County last year, about 19% of recycling was rejected and landfilled due to contaminated items.

"We all have a role — and a responsibility — to make recycling successful. We need everyone to focus on putting the right items into the recycling cart and keep the wrong items out," Rivera said.

Another item that is not recyclable curbside in Sandy is Styrofoam. Other locations accept it. Usually, UPS store locations take foam packaging peanuts, as long as they are not the dissolvable kind. ACH Foam Technologies in Murray recycles more extensive foam packaging like those used to protect electronics. Visit www.achfoam.com for more information.

Glass is also on the list of unacceptable items for regular curbside recycling bins. The city has drop-off points at Sandy City Public Works (8775 South 700 West) Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The green glass bin is inside the maintenance entrance gate on the north end of the property. The other site is the Sandy City Senior Center/Amphitheater (9310 South 1300 East) and is available 24 hours/7 days a week. The green glass bin is located in the southeast parking area just inside the entrance off of 1300 East.

However, these bins can only accept glass bottles and jars (including broken ones). Please empty container of contents and remove lids and corks. Do not place items outside of the bins. In addition to recycling, Rivera also encourages people to look for and purchase goods made with recycled materials. These include sleeping bags made from plastic water bottles, steel cans from steel beams and rebar for construction projects. Plastic milk jugs or laundry detergent bottles can be salvaged into plastic benches, Frisbees, patio furniture and recycling bins. Often recycling can happen quickly. Recycled aluminum can take as little as 60 days to become a new can.

Besides the vast environmental benefits of recycling, these items become something else. Recycled materials can create new products. Reprocessing waste also saves our natural resources, conserves water and contributes to cleaner air, according to Rivera.