The Southington Land Conservation Trust is spreading the word about recycling: We’re all doing it wrong.
An educational recycling program will be held Wednesday, April 3 at 7 p.m. at the Southington Public Library with guest speaker Sherill Baldwin from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).
“DEEP anticipates that recycling costs are going to go up,” said SLCT member Susan Bruzik who helped organize the event. “That is a big incentive for municipalities to educate residents on recycling.”
The overwhelming majority of Connecticut residents do recycle, but the problem is, it’s being done incorrectly. Non-recyclable items end up in bins that get shipped off to recycling plants and clog up the machines.
“Certain plastic, like grocery bags or plastic film, create a huge problem for sorting, because it gums up the machines, causing them to have to shut down the machines for three hours every single day to cut these huge amounts of plastic from the rotors,” said Bruzik. “It’s a hazard to workers, and it’s a time waster.”
Bruzik said some items that are in fact recyclable are not accepted by recycling facilities—particularly small plastic items.
“Things like prescription bottles, loose bottle caps—things that can fall through a two-by-two-inch grid,” she said. “It’s not that they’re not recyclable. They just don’t want those items because of the mess they create.”
Other non-recyclable items include shredded paper, Styrofoam, ice cream containers, packing peanuts, glass fragments and spiral tube containers left over after baking cinnamon rolls, crescent rolls, or other bakery items.
Even when residents are putting accepted recyclable products in their bins, contamination is an issue. For years, America sold millions of tons of plastic trash to China to be recycled into new products, but last year, China announced it was cutting back on imports of trash due to contamination that made it difficult and expensive to recycle.
This has resulted in recycling chaos in the U.S. as American facilities struggle with what to do with materials. Small town recycling programs now have inflated fees to pay to send materials to processors.
“The speaker will be talking about how China is dialing back,” said Bruzik. “They weren’t getting clean material. China is looking for recyclable material with less than 0.5 percent contamination. On average, Connecticut products have between 11 and 14 percent contamination.”
Contamination could be leftover food, liquids, or packaging materials like tape and plastic film wrap. Bruzik said clean and dry is “paramount” when it comes to recycling.
“If we can make recycling more streamlined so that companies don’t have to shut machines down or spend additional time sorting, we can help them be more efficient, and maybe they won’t need to raise costs,” said Bruzik. “Citizens need to take more initiative. The government can’t do it alone.”
Those who attend the informational program will receive reusable bags made of 100 percent recycled material donated by HQ Dumpsters and Recycling, LLC in Plantsville. The program will include a 45 minute program followed by questions and answers.
The guest speaker, Baldwin, earned her bachelor’s degree in solid waste management from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 1992 and a master’s degree in resource development from Michigan State University in 2004. She has worked in the field of waste management for over 30 years and has worked for DEEP for the last 10 years.
Registration is required at www.southingtonlibrary.org or by calling (860) 628-0947.