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Recycling program at risk due to contaminants

Chad Birdsong

December 1, 2017 – Contaminants in some resident’s curbside recycling bins could possibly lead to the discontinuation of the service for everyone in Excelsior. Republic Services/Allied Waste, the city’s waste management company, has been working on the problem since early this year. Public Works Director Chad Birdsong has been working with Republic Services on educating residents on acceptable recyclable materials. The Standard first reported on the problem in June. However, the contamination continues, so Republic Services is taking steps to isolate the situation.

“Republic Services will be monitoring the carts and if there is contamination, or any prohibited material found in the recycling bin, they will leave the cart and place a green sticker on it,” Birdsong said in a letter going out to residents. “The contaminated material will need to be removed prior to the next week’s route, or it will not be picked up.”

If the problem persists, the recycling cart may be removed from the violator’s residence suspending their curbside recycling privileges, Birdsong added. The city is at risk of losing its recycling program over this problem, so Birdsong urges all residents to take the matter seriously and asks for everyone’s cooperation.

Republic Services provides Excelsior residents with two receptacles, one for household trash and the other for recyclable materials. The recycle bin is easily identified by its bright yellow, or sometimes light blue, lid as opposed to the trash bin, in which the container and the lid are all the same dark blue.

According to Republic Services, items that are acceptable to recycle include magazines, newspapers and inserts, mail, mixed paper, poster board, phone books and catalogs, flattened corrugated cardboard, plastic bottles and plastic jugs, paper cartons like milk cartons or juice boxes, aluminum beverage cans, clean metal food cans and clean plastic tubs.

Unacceptable items include aluminum foil, metals that aren’t aluminum cans or food cans, stickers/labels, Styrofoam products like cups, plates or packing peanuts, aerosol cans, hazardous or toxic product containers, glass jars or bottles, light bulbs, drinking glasses or any other glassware, propane tanks, frozen food bags or plastic bags like chip bags, Ziploc bags, or trash bags, batteries or any electronics, plastic or metal clothes hangers, ceramic flower pots or plastic toys, shredded paper, or anything with wet food waste like food contaminated paper, pizza boxes, paper plates, napkins, etc.

Republic Services believes if residents understand the process to sorting recycling materials, they may understand the problems that come with contamination. The waste management company along with the city are mailing informational fliers to all residents with this month’s water bill.

“Contamination in the recycle program has become a big issue in America,” Republic said in a statement. “As a result, it is important to not put your recyclables in plastic bags. Each item you recycle is handled by workers at the recycling center who have to tear open each bag in order to process the contents. It is best to leave your recyclable items loose in the cart.”

Republic explained that equipment used at recycling centers separates “flats” (paper) from “rounds” (containers). When residents flatten containers like juice cartons, the equipment mistakenly sends these items to the paper side of the facility, significantly contaminating the paper meant to be recycled. Shredded paper should not go into the recycle bin, as it falls through the cracks of the sorting machines and sticks to the belts. Frozen food packaging, such as pizza boards and entrée containers, have a plastic polymer sprayed on them to protect against freezer burn. This coating prevents the box from breaking up in the recycling process or becoming compostable.

Birdsong shared that the ultimate idea behind the city’s recycling program is to save costs and decrease the amount of material filling up landfills. “If we can reduce the amount of the waste stream going into a landfill, then landfills last longer and we can reuse some of the fill material. This also saves cost and keeps trash rates lower in the long run,” Birdsong said.

Two of the three recycling centers in Kansas City have quit accepting recyclable material collected in Excelsior Springs due to contamination, Birdsong shared. His fear is that if the third center quits accepting the material, Excelsior’s recycling program is finished.

While contamination is noticed citywide, it is most prevalent on the Monday and Tuesday collection days, Birdsong said. Those days collect primarily in the downtown and east side of Excelsior.

Anyone with questions about the recycling program can contact Public Works at 816-630-0755, ext. 421.

By Brian Rice •

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