What do you imagine when you think of “Recycling”? Many people have assumptions about recycling, but not a lot of concrete information. If you want to recycle “right” (which means your items actually get recycled), then read on as we break down what recycling actually means and how it works.
It helps if you start by remembering that “recycle” really means “remanufacture.” If you hold that word in mind, then it’s easy: recycling is the remanufacturing of materials – breaking down a single material back into a “raw” material that can then be remanufactured into something new. It’s a good way to reuse our resources and avoid unnecessary virgin mining, but it’s not as good as not creating waste in the first place.
Also, remembering the “manufacturing” part of recycling should help you remember that the reason some materials get recycled while others do not is solely based on volumes available, and ability to collect, sort, and process.
Lots of things are "recyclable." But not all of them can be collected, sorted, and processed in the same way. Your recycling bin or cart is part of a collection system that we call Blue-Bin Recycling. (Some people call it "no-sort," "Zero-sort®," or "single-sort recycling.")
Blue-Bin Recycling in central Vermont typically goes to the regional sorting facility in Williston (the Materials Recovery Facility, or MRF), which is designed for specific items: Uncoated paper, cardboard, and clean containers (like bottles, jars, cans, and tubs). See the full list and print the handout, here.
One of concerns we hear most frequently sounds something like this: “Now that we don’t send our recycling to China – is it really being recycled?” The answer is simple: here in Vermont, our markets are in the U.S., based mainly on the West Coast. With the pressures of losing China’s recycling market, other states are forced to use already established markets in the U.S., including the same West Coast markets that Vermont has been using for years. This means that it’s more important than ever to reduce or eliminate contamination in recycling material, starting with your “blue bin”. As the markets become more high demand – so does the need for efficiency and ease of processing to help keep the quality high and the costs low.
What’s contamination? Contamination is anything that:
- Is not on the mandated list of recyclables in Vermont and
- Is a material that can clog machinery or flow at the MRF. Such items include: anything smaller than 2” x 2”, plastic bags (or stretchy films), items made up of more than one material (such as foiled paper or disposable coffee cups with plastic film lining), scrap metal, paint cans, appliances, window glass, light bulbs, or Styrofoam, to name a few.
Other items CAN be recycled, but they don't belong in the blue bin. We call those “Special” or “Additional Recycling.” The Additional Recycling Collection Center in Barre accepts hard-to-recycle items, including batteries and fluorescent bulbs, but there are also quite a number of take-back locations across the state for those as well.
We also hold annual Hazardous Household Waste Collection Events in locations throughout the district to collect things like toxic cleaning products, tar, adhesives, and pesticides. To learn more about what hazardous waste is, or to find out about collections, visit this web page.
Put your good intentions to use – and practice recycling right! If you’re enthusiastic about reducing waste, save your Special recycling aside and take it to the ARCC (or combine loads with a neighbor or friend), for every few months. Make sure to check our ARCC webpage for an up to date list of what we accept, our hours, and fees.
Learn more about waste reduction, composting, and other programs on our website.
Learn more about the CSWD Materials Recovery Facility.
See the full list of mandated recyclables.