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Can I recycle this?

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Greg Peck
May 29, 2013

I sent an email last week to Peter Riggs, assistant city operations director, that included a list of items I wasn’t sure I could put in my recycling bin.

Riggs responded that some of the items were listed as acceptable in the city’s “Recyclopedia,” that we should have received when we got our new trash and recycling bins. The trouble is, we didn’t get one; we had ordered the smaller recycling bin, and it didn’t come during the scheduled drop-off days, so we had to call and order it. We never got the printed material. Riggs apologized for that and sent me a copy by regular mail. I got it Saturday.

The guide assured me that I can recycle tin cans and Styrofoam chunks of packaging material, two items on my list to Riggs.

Others on my list that still weren’t covered: plastic planter containers; an old plastic rake (minus the wooden handle); cardboard and Styrofoam egg cartons; small pieces of scrap metal; shredded paper.

Riggs checked with the city’s recycling processor before responding.

“The city will accept all of those items with the exception of the plastic rake head," he then wrote me. "Currently, large, rigid plastics cannot be accepted as part of the curbside collection program.”

(I decided not to ask if I could recycle the rake if I cut it into small pieces; I did so before placing them in my trash bin.).

“The plant containers should be cleaned off and should not contain any soil or plants. The egg cartons should be clean and should not contain any food waste.

“Shredded paper is recyclable, but it can create problems for collection and processing. The small pieces of paper tend to blow around during collection and processing, which makes it difficult to keep inside our trucks and also difficult to separate out from the other waste when processing. This is the same reason we do not accept Styrofoam packaging peanuts. Recycling shredded paper (or regular office paper and junk mail) is not mandatory. At this time, I would recommend not placing shredded paper in your cart for recycling. Instead you should place the shredded paper in a bag and dispose of it in your trash cart. Options may exist to recycle this material at the local privately owned and operated recycling facilities in the area.”

When in doubt about disposing of certain materials, Riggs urges residents to:

--Visit the city's recycling website..

--Check the diagram on the lid of your recyclables cart.

--Check the “Recyclopedia” publication that was distributed with your new cart.

--Call City Services at 608-755-3110.

“Disposing of the multitude of different materials we accumulate can be confusing at times,” Riggs acknowledged in his email. “We are here to help make sure folks do it correctly. Sometimes the city may not provide those disposal options, but we will often be able to point you in the right direction.”

I told Riggs that if readers of this blog pose more questions about what can or can’t be recycled, I’ll try to relay those questions to him, as well.

Incidentally, the city’s “Recyclopedia” explained the new holiday week trash collection schedule. Many residents didn’t read or remember it and also didn’t fully read the brief we ran in Saturday’s Gazette that said everyone’s trash collection is delayed one day this week due to the Memorial Day holiday. That’s right, if your normal trash day is Friday, crews will collect it Saturday this week. And yes, Operations Director John Whitcomb acknowledges, that means city crews get paid overtime for working Saturday.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook



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