Check it at the curb
The recycle industry starts with the stuff in the recycle container you put at the curb. Past blogs on products from glass countertops to plastic lumber rely on a stream of waste that starts with you.
Robert Pickens, Vice President of the Midwest Region of Greenstar Recycling says “only 3%-5% of all the material put in recycle containers in the Des Moines area ends up in the landfill. Material is sorted by both machines and by hand into cardboard, newspaper, magazines, glass bottles, seven types of plastic, tin, and aluminum.”
Greenstar then provides the raw material to processors who in turn prepare the material for the end user, such as a company that needs polyethylene pellets to make park benches. Most of our local stuff goes to processors in the United States and Mexico. Some might even end up in China.
The chemical makeup of some plastic makes the process pretty toxic to revert back to a raw material. As a result, Pickens says “Manufacturers are shifting their packaging so containers can be more readily returned to a raw material for reuse.” Wow, that means a ketchup bottle that used to end up in the landfill may cost a bit more at the grocery store but the bottle becomes a mayonaise bottle in a second life.
Pickens says we can we do three things so as much as possible gets recycled.
- Rinse out your bottles. Even a recycler does not want dirty product.
- No plastic bags from the grocery store. They just clog up the machinery.
- No weird stuff like holiday lights or broken dishware.