Becoming better recyclers: A nod to Earth Week, with tips on sorting waste and other helpful hints

Published 7:54 am Thursday, April 19, 2018

Many local residents think they’re helping the environment by tossing paper, aluminum and plastic into their big blue recycling containers for curbside pickup. They may even throw in Styrofoam egg cartons in hopes of it being recyclable — but they’re not. 

It’s important to make sure items are prepared properly so they’re not wasted and have to be hauled to landfills instead of recycled.

Jennifer Eldridge, communications senior manager for Republic Services, which has the contract for citywide trash and recycling collections, said the best ways to be better recyclers is to make sure the item is actually recyclable — which means no egg cartons, and plastic jars and bottles must be rinsed out. 

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“A half-full plastic ketchup bottle is a good example. The plastic bottle is recyclable, but with the food residue, it can cause contamination for other items that the plastic bottle might come into contact with, such as paper or cardboard, potentially ruining the clean recyclable materials.”

She said to make sure that ketchup bottle is emptied and rinsed out, then it’s ready to be recycled.

It’s OK to leave tops on the water and soda bottles, Eldridge said. Jar lids can also be left on as long as they are of the same material. However, if it’s a metal lid on a plastic or glass container, just screw it off and toss into the recycling container separately.

“Unfortunately, if items in your curbside recycling container are not recyclable or are not clean of their contents, in most cases, the batch will have to go to the landfill,” Eldridge said.

Electronic devices and equipment as well as batteries, fluorescent bulbs and ballasts are hazardous materials that must be handled differently than other household waste and recyclables. For business customers, Republic offers programs to recycle electronics securely and responsibly, and to safely dispose of batteries, bulbs and ballasts.

Recycling collected in Danville by Republic trucks is taken to the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Recycling Facility, which serves 19 surrounding counties. “It’s a great example of a regional partnership working together.”

For those who would like a curbside pickup, blue recycling container at home, call (859) 263-2000

Acceptable items include:

• Paper products: newspaper and inserts, magazines, phone books, office and school papers, catalogs, brown paper bags, etc. 

• Aluminum cans

• Cardboard and boxboard with packing material removed (Do NOT recycle boxboard that is made to go in the refrigerator or freezer such as soda boxes or frozen meals.)

• Aerosol cans (empty)

• Steel food cans (rinse first, labels can stay on)

• No. 1 and No. 2 plastic bottles and jugs (found on the container within what looks like a triangle, with the number inside)

• Glass bottles and jars, both colored and clear (some blue carts may indicate glass recycled separately, but no longer true — place with other recyclables)

Unwanted items include:

• Plastic bags, wrap and film (many stores will accept plastic bags for recycling) 

• Hoses

• Bungee cords

• Christmas lights (can be recycled with the electronic materials at any of the Boyle County Convenience Centers)

• Cloth (charities usually accept for reuse)

• Chains (placed in metal recycling dumpsters located at any of the convenience centers)

Unacceptable items commonly put into the recycling containers include:

• Pyrex or plate glass

• Ceramics

• Packaging intended for the refrigerator or freezer (soft drink carrier cases, frozen-food boxes, etc.)

• Styrofoam containers

• Clam shell packaging

• Disposable cups, hot or cold

• Wrapping and tissue paper

Republic Services also offers these tips to help make recycling easier: 

Keep it simple —focus on four areas: paper (including newspaper, envelopes, mail, phone books, magazines);flattened cardboard, file folders and poster board; plastic bottles and containers; and aluminum and tin food/beverage cans

Keep it clean — make sure empty of all contents as well as residue, and are dry 

If in doubt, throw it out — some items should not be mixed in with clean recyclables; if unsure, research it or throw it out 

Know what’s not recyclable — plastic grocery/shopping bags, food waste, clothing/shoes/other textiles, yard waste, Styrofoam/fiberglass, disposable diapers, tissue/paper towel/napkins/hardcover books, treated or contaminated wood/sheetrock/drywall, metal chairs/tools/car parts