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Jeff Humphrey

Don't Let the Holidays Hurt Recycling Efforts!

Jeff Humphrey, Media Manager, 509.625.6308


Tuesday, November 26, 2019 at 3:20 p.m.

Right now almost 13 percent of the material we send to Spokane’s recycling plant isn’t the right stuff for recycling.

Unfortunately, the confusion tends to get worse around the holidays, when people try to do things like recycle their old Christmas lights.

Most gift-wrapping materials like bows, ribbons and foil- backed paper can’t be recycled either

There’s lots of aluminum in a disposable turkey roaster, but if it’s covered in grease, it’s a recycle reject.

“It’s only recyclable if somebody can use it and if it’s too dirty, then it’s going to end up as garbage,” explained Kristine Major, Spokane’s Solid Waste Disposal Education Coordinator.

Inside Spokane’s SMART recycling center, a combination of people and machines sort through the fast-moving stream of what we toss into our blue bins.

“So, electronics, things that have cords, definitely are not recyclable,” Major said as she dug a pile of rejected items.

Cords and plastic bags are a concern because they can tangle up conveyor belts and equipment.

Major then pointed to a discarded swing set for a toddler. It was made of metal and plastic, but not recyclable. Major said the well-intentioned parents had participated in “wish recycling”.

“What they find out here at this facility is there is no magic recycling genie that makes that happen. If it’s pulled out because it doesn’t belong, it’s going to end up in the garbage,” Major lamented.

Major feels there are some finer points about residential recycling you should know about.

“Any paper that’s been wet is really not recyclable. So plastic bags are no-no’s for sure, but whenever you put things inside the bag, it all has to be treated as garbage. Even if there were recyclable things in here,” Major said of a bag filled with aluminum soda cans.

While most lids on cans and bottles are recyclable, they are so small, most will literally fall through the cracks of the sorting operation.

So ideally, you would trash the lid, but recycle the container.

“So someone told me, that if it’s smaller than the palm of your hand, it’s probably going to end up in the garbage,” added Major.

The problem with recycle rejects ending up in the garbage is, sorting through and then, incinerating what can’t be recycled is expensive.

“There is a cost when it comes to handling this material twice. If it should have been in the garbage to begin with, that’s the best place for it. When it comes to the recycling center, we have to sort it out, and then treat it as garbage. And that is just added cost and that could come back to rate payers,” warned Major.

For more information on the do’s and don’ts of recycling, visit spokanecity.org and search for “recycling”.

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