Recycling is in
jeopardy, but each of us can take action to make a difference.
Most people are
aware that recycling conserves energy, reduces pollution and greenhouse
gases, and conserves natural resources. Aside from the environmental
benefits, few may know that recycling has an economic impact of over $3
billion in Indiana. A study released by the Institute of Scrap Recycling
Industries (ISRI) in 2017 shows over 17,000 jobs were directly supported by
recycling and scrap brokerage operations in Indiana. Total wages paid for
these jobs were $972 million, with taxes paid of $425 million.
These benefits were
threatened last year when China stopped accepting recyclable materials from
other countries. Roughly 33 percent of U.S. recyclables were shipped to
China in 2017, much of which was contaminated.
actual trash in the recycling bin, usually caused by “wish-cycling,” the
practice of tossing questionable items in the recycling bin hoping they can
somehow be recycled. Our single-stream recycling programs, where all
materials are placed in one bin, have emboldened residents to place anything
they think should be recycled in the bin and allow the sorting facilities to
make that ultimate decision. This has led to high contamination rates and
increased processing costs, causing China to stop importing recyclables.
international markets forced regional material recovery facilities or MRFs
(those who receive and market our recyclables) to search for solutions to
maintain local recycling programs. MRFs now require lower levels of
contamination in recyclables received and are passing the cost of processing
contamination back to the users.
and drop-off recycling programs will be less tolerant of contamination and
service rates will increase to cover processing costs.
For example, this
year the cost of drop-off recycling service sponsored by the Porter County
Recycling and Waste Reduction District will increase along with efforts to
reduce contamination. Containers at six district sponsored drop-off
recycling sites will be labeled with descriptions of what is recyclable
along with locked lids with restricted openings.
The labels will
clearly state what is accepted; plastic bottles, tubs and jugs; aluminum and
metal cans; glass bottles and jars; cartons; and various paper items.
If it’s not on the
list, it doesn’t go in the container. Restricted openings will discourage
abusive behavior, such as putting actual trash in the containers.
start at the sorting facility; recycling starts with each and every one of
us. Here’s what you can do:
First, “when in
doubt, throw it out.” Pay attention to what is truly accepted through local
recycle programs and properly dispose of items that cannot be recycled.
Keeping contamination down will help recycling programs survive. Recycling
guidelines for what is accepted at district drop off sites can be found on
the district website