Imagine if you are a farmer or business person that has something to sell — corn or some sort of mass-made trinkets. You want to have a quality product to sell so you can make the most money from what you have produced. In recycling, we are all supplying something to the recycling markets every time we recycle. We are providing a product that is eventually sold to a market that can reuse that product to make it into more goods such as garden benches (made from recycled plastics) or more pop cans (most aluminum is made back into beverage containers). 

If we have a product that isn’t that great, we will have a hard time selling it for a good price if at all. Each time each of us recycles correctly, we are contributing to a mass market for a product which is recyclables. If we place items into recycling that do not belong, then the value of those recyclables goes down or is not wanted at all. Contamination (wish recycling) or placing items into recycling that doesn’t belong is the biggest mistake that is being made daily with our recycling program. If an item is not on our recycling guide, it should never go into our recycling. If you are not sure if an item is recyclable, please throw it away or call our office for help. We are glad to answer your questions!

Why would a company purchase recyclable items from us when there are mattresses, dirty diapers, oil waste, or cat litter mixed in with the good items? As recyclers, we are playing in the commodity markets each time we place something into the recycling cart or community drop sites. The cleaner our recyclables are, the more money is made throughout the whole recycling system.

Seventy percent of our recyclables processed through these markets are consumed in the United States. There is a demand for good, clean recyclables to be used to make more cardboard boxes or to make more paper, aluminum cans, or steel cans. 

Often, some of the things we recycle are made into other things such as ceiling tiles. Thirty milk cartons from a school lunch can be made into a 2′ by 2′ ceiling tile. By the way, most of these cartons including pop cartons, pizza cartons, and the like are no longer coated with wax. The shiny substance on these items is a polyethylene cover that is placed onto these containers to protect the fibers. It is a thin layer of plastic. Wax coatings have not been used since 1960.

The journey of our recyclables from our area starts from when a company places an item on a store shelf and we purchase it (item and packaging) and bring it home. From there, once we are done with it, the recyclable packaging is placed into your recycling cart or community drop site. At this point, it is picked up and brought to a facility where it is sorted. The company then takes those items and sells them into a market or to another business which they, in turn, make it into something new again. So when you think about it this way, recycling is more about reuse.  

As consumers, residents can vote with their dollars (your purchasing power) to tell companies that provide us with these products that you think about how they have packaged the item that you are purchasing. If there is a downturn in sales for a particular product because the public doesn’t like the packaging or the product, that company will change its packaging.

The one key recyclable that many residents have the most trouble with is plastic. All plastic materials have the recycling logo on it. This doesn’t mean that it is recyclable but it tells the manufacturing plant what type of plastic is it made from. We currently only recycle 3 types of plastics in Lyon County — 1, 2, and 5 and they must be from the list that we provide. Most of the types of plastic we can recycle in our program are from food containers, shampoo, or soap containers. Everything else is considered trash and these include laundry baskets, 5-gallon pails, plastic toys, and garden plant containers

Watch for the next installment about recycling and trash disposal coming to you next week to read more about how businesses are playing a larger part in using recyclables in packaging. For more about recycling, please call the Lyon County Environmental Department at (507) 532-8210 or go to www.lyonco.org.


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