Republic: No changes planned for single stream recycling, contamination an issue

MORGANTOWN — Republic Services spokesperson Deirdre Edgar said there are no planned changes to what’s allowed in single stream recycling for the Morgantown area despite a significant tightening of the overseas recycling market in the past year.

That said, ensuring your recyclables don’t end up in the landfill may take a bit more time.

The majority of the recyclables from the United States were exported to China for use in various forms of manufacturing. About a year ago the Chinese government enacted a regulation known as National Sword, which mandated the country would no longer accept recycling loads with contaminants equating to half of one percent of the load volume.

By contrast, Edgar said, recycling haulers nationwide typically see contamination numbers  hovering around 30 percent in the material they pick up from customers.

“That’s a huge discrepency,” she said. “They really cracked down on what was being accepted and said ‘we don’t want to be the world’s garbage dump anymore.’ ”

The restriction has caused some haulers to eliminate certain contaminant-prone materials, including glass and certain plastics from the list of recyclable materials. A number of Pittsburgh communities were notified over the summer that such changes would take effect Jan. 1.

While  Edgar is encouraging vigilance in inspecting what’s going into your recycling bin, she said there are no changes planned for the list of acceptable single stream recycling materials in the Morgantown area.

“I just spoke to our general manager there in Wheeling. They oversee Morgantown. There are no changes planned at this time for Morgantown, so everything is going to proceed as it has, in recycling, collections and everything,” Edgar said. “If and when it gets to the point of need to make some change like that, it will be announced far in advance and discussed at city council meetings and that sort of thing.”

She said that if people want to ensure the materials they recycle don’t end up in a landfill, they need to make sure it’s recyclable, clean and dry.

For example, a pizza box soaked through with grease cannot be recycled. Broken glass in a recycling bin will get the whole batch trashed.

“What we’re trying to do is educate consumers to think about what you’re tossing in the recycling container and make sure it’s the right thing,” she said.

“If municipalities have low contamination numbers, their program is going to be successful. Some of these changes you’re seeing in other parts of the country are the result of very, very high levels of contamination …”

Because local recycling is collected at the Republic-owned Mountaineer Transfer Station before being hauled to a Pittsburgh sort center, Commission President Tom Bloom said he would like to see the county, WVU and local municipalities meet with Republic to discuss the stricter guidelines to ensure local recycling isn’t simply trucked off to a landfill due to contamination.

He said the county has already started telling patrons of its Saturday recycling drop-off program that they need to start bringing recycling in clean cardboard boxes or reusable containers because plastic trash bags are not recyclable and would be considered contamination.

Edgar said there is additional information on best recycling practices at recyclingsimplified.com.

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