I had no idea what sort of “recycling education” I was in for at the Mt. Diablo Resource Recovery facility in Pittsburg, but did I ever get an education! I got a personal tour from Adriana Medina, Recycling Coordinator, who taught me more about recycling than I could have imagined. I always wondered, “What happens to the recycling stuff that I put in my bin?” Like me, I bet you feel good about yourself when you toss a water bottle, cardboard pizza box, or empty peanut butter jar in your recycle bin? After all, you’re helping to save the environment, right?! But wait, stop! Did you remove the cap from the water bottle (it’s NOT recyclable)? Does the cardboard pizza box have food residue on it (it’s NOT recyclable)? Did you clean out that peanut butter jar (it’s not recyclable if it’s not completely clean!)? Facilities like the Mt. Diablo Resource Recovery facility sells our material that we recycle to China. Did you know that? But, if we don’t properly clean the main six acceptable materials: aluminum, cardboard, glass, paper, plastic and tin, then it is rejected and goes straight to trash!
After sorting the acceptable material, it’s compacted and bailed to be sold to China. China requires less than 1% contamination rate, or they will reject the material! What that means, if we don’t do our due diligence and clean the material, we my as well throw it in the trash! What! Wait? Yep, that’s right.
There’s a lot of “recycling politics” too (as I learned today, which got my blood boiling), but that’s a whole other blog. So for now, let’s just recycle the acceptable recycling material – and keep it clean!
Last but not least, please no Styrofoam and/or liquids (all liquids, even water, contaminates the lot). All the recycling can go in ONE cart/bin and does not need to be separated within your bin. Besides cleaning our recycled material, here are some other easy ways to REDUCE waste:
- Stop junk mail delivery — Info at StopJunkMail.org
- Reuse cardboard boxes for shipping and storage
- Buy in bulk, if possible
- Use reusable household items like cups, plates and cotton napkins