by Cassandra Hemenway
Did you know that most recycled items in central Vermont end up at the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), in Williston, VT? The rules about what we can recycle in central Vermont comes from state mandate (the Statewide Six) or from what can be processesed at the MRF (pronounced "Murph").
Some recycling rules that seem odd at first (nothing smaller than 2" x 2" or larger than 2' x 2' can go in your recycling bin) make sense when you understand what happens to the MRF machinery or MRF staff who can get hurt by flying bottle caps.
For years certain items that seemed recyclable (think Pizza boxes) were not allowed in the bin based on recycling markets and the processing capabilities at the MRF. Recently, a few things have changed in Williston, which means more stuff that we in central Vermont can put in our bins!
The folks at the Chittenden Solid Waste District, who run the MRF, recently added some new items to the YES list for recyclables – and clarifyed some of the NO-NOs.
Here’s the scoop on the new recyclables:
YES - these can now go in your recycling bin if you have single-sort recycling:
- Fridge/frozen food boxes are now accepted! That includes frozen dinners, frozen veggies, butter boxes, etc.
EXCLUSIONS: No paper-based ice cream or beverage/soup containers allowed (milk cartons, juice boxes, aseptic containers, etc.). The markets that buy our material don’t want them due to the inevitable residue. As with all recyclables, no food is allowed.
Bakery boxes with or without plastic window are now accepted. Not recyclable if there’s any food residue, crumbs, etc.
Pizza boxes: We can now accept them for recycling with a moderate amount of grease – but absolutely no crumbs or stuck-on food.
Thermal cash register receipts: These are the receipts you usually get at the gas pump and most retailers and restaurants. They were once considered unrecyclable due to the chemicals used for thermal printing. That’s no longer an issue.
EXCLUSIONS: As with all recyclables, the paper must be at least 2 inches long and wide. Unused register paper of any kind that is still on a roll is not acceptable for two reasons: 1) The center spindles are typically made from plastic or a densified, non-recyclable cardboard. 2) If the unused paper is more than 2 feet long, it can come unspooled and wrap itself around equipment, causing tangling issues similar to filmy plastics, like grocery bags.
Paper ream wrap: When you buy a ream of printer paper, it comes wrapped in either paper or plastic. Paper wrap was once considered unrecyclable due to moisture-resistant treatment used to protect the paper inside. That is now not an issue. Copier paper wrap made of plastic is still NOT recyclable.
Jar lids: They’re now recyclable in the blue bin! They must be separated from the containers they come on. The reason we couldn’t recycle them before was that there are typically other materials on the underside to help make a tight seal. This is no longer an issue.
Foil tops on yogurt/drink containers: The reason that there’s a question at all is that they are bonded with a thin layer of plastic for strength. As long as they are collected as part of a ball of foil at least 2 inches in diameter, these can be recycled in your bin. Otherwise, they act like paper in our sorting stream and are often erroneously mixed in with that stream.
And... a few NO-No's - continue to keep these items OUT of your recycling bin:
Bottle caps: Leave ‘em on or take ‘em off? Take ‘em off and save them for the CVSWMD Additional Recyclables Collection Center. Caps on bottles are no-no’s because:
- Bottles sealed with lids require more pressure from the bailer to crush into a bale, which wears out machinery sooner.
- People tend to toss bottles that still contain fluid into the recycling bin when they cap the bottle. Fluids are a huuuge recycling no-no! Bottles need to be entirely empty of liquid (rinsed is even better!) before going in the bin.
- Plastic caps don’t meet the 2-inch size minimum.
- Metal caps are recyclable at the ARCC, NOT in the recycle bin. Plastic (and metal) lids larger than the 2-inch minimum can be recycled in the bin only if they are separated from the containers they came on.
Black Rigid Plastic: Here's what the folks at CSWD say about black plastic: "The global commodities market – where we sell the recyclables we collect – isn’t buying black plastic. In recent years the MRF has had trouble selling bales containing black plastic at a high enough price to cover our processing costs. At times we couldn’t even give them away. And because black plastic makes up a tiny fraction (0.06%) of the recycling stream, we decided to focus on maximizing the value of the other 99.94% of recyclables that come through our door. For these reasons, we no longer accept black plastic for recycling. Please reuse black plastic containers, or place them in the trash."
For the more information about why black plastic is no longer accepted in recycling bin, read more here.
Still have questions? Email us or call 802-229-9383 x102. CVSWMD staff are happy to give presentations about recycling, composting, reducing waste, or tips for reuse. Call to schedule your presentation today.
There are a lot of opportunities to generate waste during the holidays. Between gift giving, gift wrapping, decorations, dinner parties, leftovers, and more gatherings with family and friends. The EPA reports that between Thanksgiving and New Years the volume of waste from households in the US increases by nearly 25%, around 1 million tons. Read on for tips for zero waste gifts, wrapping, decorations and more.
Top 4 Tips for Zero Waste Gifts
1. Gift of an experience
More tips from: Trash is for Tossers, Zero Waste Home
Wrap it in meaning, not future trash.
If you do use wrapping paper ... Sort it, Don't waste it!
Bows, tinsel, ribbons--these can be saved and reused for a few years until they fall apart and become trash.
Styrofoam (often packaging for large electronics)
Recycling or Reuse:
Wrapping paper, cardboard (including tubes from paper), boxboard, tissue paper
Hemp or other natural twine, shredded newspaper, office paper, or brown paper bags
Decorations and 5 ways to Go Green this Holiday Season
What Happens to your Tree after Christmas?
There are many places to drop off your trees after the holiday season throughout the district. Vermont's Universal Recycling Law bans clean wood waste, including trees from the landfill as of July 1, 2016.
**Don't forget to remove all tinsel, ornaments, and non-organic materials from the tree before dropping it off.
This post is brought to you by Charlotte Low, CVSWMD Outreach Coordinator
by CVSWMD General Manager Bruce Westcott
Waste more, want not, said no one ever. But, we’ve all heard the age old saying, “waste not, want not.”
Whether you learned it from a grandmother saving the inch-long threads left over from mending jeans or a coworker who eats the same leftovers for a week, it’s an adage we can all agree with. The less you waste, the more you have, and therefore, the less you want (or the more resources you have to get what you want). Reducing waste, or going so far as to become zero waste, can open opportunities in life and contribute to the beneficial stewardship of the planet. When you waste less, you will find that you want less and gain more.
Bea Johnson, zero waste advocate, speaker, author and educator has led a zero waste life since 2008. Her family of four generated just one pint jar of trash for all of 2015. While Johnson demonstrates how possible it is to live a zero waste lifestyle, zero waste living doesn’t happen overnight; it’s an adjustment that takes time and requires flexibility and self-compassion. To get started, Johnson offers five basic rules, in this order, to manage waste:
These are the rules for every material thing you purchase, consume or come to own, in a zero waste lifestyle.
A zero waste life style directly reduces impact on the environment in numerous ways. Here are just a few:
Zero Waste Living saves time and money:
The more stuff we buy, the more money we spend and the more time we spend centered on stuff and not experiences. For example, at children’s birthday parties typical gifts include plastic toys, stuffed animals, and other things that clutter up their room and can’t possibly be played with all at once. It is wonderful to be generous on someone’s birthday, but there are other ways to show appreciation. Here are a few tips for going zero waste with kids. When you have less stuff in your home, less time is spent caring for it, cleaning it, fixing it, or figuring out ways to get rid of it.
You can take it slowly on your path toward zero waste, or you can go all out; it’s a lifestyle choice, so it’s up to you. Here a few easy tips to help you get there, take the ones that work, leave the ones that don’t. Revisit these tips and others for a new challenge or idea.
Guest Author: Charlotte Low, Outreach Coordinator, CVSWMD, email@example.com
Central Vermonters recycled 440 pounds of prescription pill bottles from January 2014 to December 2015 at our Additional Recyclables Collection Center (ARCC). Some of you might be asking, how did they do that? I thought you couldn't recycle items that small in Vermont. It is true that most pill bottles are under 2 inches in diameter in two dimensions, so most cannot be recycled in your curbside or household recycling bin. In order to be recycled in your bin, all items must be 2 inches or larger in 2 or more dimensions. Otherwise, these small items can jam up the equipment used to sort and separate recyclables at the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). The ARCC offers a place where people can recycle and recapture these small items into the marketplace, instead of throwing them in the trash.
The ARCC was started in 2012 by the CVSWMD to keep valuable resources out of the landfill. If you haven't been, we collect around 30 hard-to-recycle materials; including paint, batteries, textiles, electronics, and even energy bar wrappers, toothpaste tubes and prescription pill bottles. Small items or packaging like, tooth paste tubes or prescription pill bottles, may seem like silly things to recycle. After all, they are small and maybe you don't generate many of them. Or, perhaps you are not aware that there is a way to recycle them. In January 2016, we got confirmation that recycling these pill bottles was worth it. They could be reused in a brilliant way. Through our ARCC program, Central Vermonters sent 440 pounds or thousands, of prescription pill bottles to The Malawi Project. Every little bit counts, and the pill bottles turned out to be valuable resources.
The Malawi Project is a nonprofit organization that sustains aid programs in Malawi, one of the poorest nations on Earth. One of their programs involves distribution of medicines. In Malawi, it's difficult to obtain bottles to pack and distribute these medicines. In the USA we casually toss them into the trash can. To meet their needs, the Malawi Project started a program to accept recycled prescription pill bottles. From the efforts of facilities, like the ARCC, and individuals who cared to recycle them, they collected 2 million prescription pill bottles! So many that they have successfully concluded the program (though we still collect pill bottles at the ARCC). That is a huge number of bottles. All kept out of the landfill and reused for the distribution of much needed medications to the people of Malawi. This is just one example of how we can turn our trash into treasure, if we have the chance.
Read the letter from the Malawi Project about their work and this success!
Guest Blogger: Charlotte Low, CVSWMD Outreach Coordinator
Solid waste facilities are not designed to manage radioactive waste and hazardous wastes, and in Vermont these materials are banned from the landfill. According to Curie Services (which accepts smoke detectors for recycling), “the integrity of the Am-241 foil can be significantly compromised during solid waste collection and processing. It is when the radioactive material is crushed and compromised that exposure concerns become very real.”
In other words, the reason smoke detectors are safe when installed properly in your home, but not safe in the landfill, is because the AM241 is enclosed in a tiny unit inside the detector and protected by the hard plastic casing. Once in the landfill, this can easily break open and release the radioactive material into the air and water supply.
The Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District, like all other solid waste management entities, has been working hard to provide a good solution for disposal of old smoke detectors. We cannot accept them at our household hazardous waste (HHW) collections, because the companies we contract with to handle HHW are not certified to handle radioactive material. We are currently unable to collect them ourselves at our Additional Recyclables Collection.
So what’s a homeowner to do with an old smoke detector? One option is to store them in a cardboard box or bucket in a cool, dry place while CVSWMD and other Vermont solid waste management entities find a solution.
In the old days, the message used to be to mail your smoke detectors back to the original manufacturer. Now it is illegal to mail smoke detectors through the U.S. Postal Service, and not every manufacturer accepts their products back at the end of use. However, currently CVSWMD is working on an affordable disposal option for residents of our 18 member municipalities.
In the meantime, if you have smoke detectors you want to dispose of immediately, another option is to purchase a mail-back kit from Curie Environmental Services. Please understand that there is a cost associated with recycling smoke alarms because they contain such highly hazardous materials. Mailing smoke detectors properly is not a simple process: the folks at Curie will walk you through how to do it, but be prepared that the shipping process and labelling is entirely different than anything else you have shipped before and certain codes and procedures have to be followed. Curie has instructions on their website, and provide individual telephone support to make the process as simple as possible for the homeowner.
Once you ship your smoke detectors to Curie, the plastic and metal components are separated and recycled locally. The copper, aluminum and ferrous metal are source-separated and shipped for scrap metal recovery locally. The remaining Am-241 foil is shipped for final disposal at a licensed radioactive waste facility. For manufacturers that will accept the alarm back for recycling, Curie will direct ship the entire alarm.
Smoke detectors are just one of the challenging materials that we have to consider at CVSWMD. This highlights a truth we encounter daily: The way materials are made, packaged and processed in our contemporary world produces a problem at the disposal end. A better solution is to find non-hazardous, non-wasteful ways to create products in the first place. Until then, we’ll be here to answer your questions about how to manage your materials at the end of their lives. For information about more hard-to-recycle items, check out our A-Z guide on our websitewww.cvswmd.org/a---z-guide.
This article originally appeared in the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, by Cassandra Hemenway the CVSWMD outreach manager.
Cassandra Hemenway, CVSWMD Outreach Manager, Charlotte Low, Outreach Coordinator and Andrew Donahue, CVSWMD Eco-Americorps Service Member all contribute to this blog. Guest bloggers will be named in the post. Email us if you'd like to contribute.