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Your recycling is going to the dump

Americans are recycling 77 percent of that which is “recyclable,” but only 9 percent is actually being recycled. When you think about all the work, all the rinsing, all the sorting … 9 percent is a number that could actually make you cry. Frontline/PBS took a special look at the Plastic Wars on March 31, this is what they uncovered: the little chasing arrows, on the bottom of plastic containers, that tell you an item is recyclable, are a scam.

What they actually tell you is that in another place in time, in a galaxy far, far away, that item could be recycled. But right now, right here, in the USA, only drink bottles, water bottles and milk jugs are recyclable. That’s right – the clamshells, the yogurt tubs, the clear plastic containers that hold spinach and lettuce — they are all trash.

China used to purchase America’s recyclables, but that has stopped. Recycling just does not make money anymore. Bakersfield, once made $65 a ton for recycled glass, plastic, paper and metal, but now it has to pay $25 per ton. Mixed paper used to fetch a hefty $170 a ton, but now recycling companies only make a paltry $10 per ton. So recycling is no longer a profit center, and very soon we will all be paying to recycle.

So what can we do to be helpful? First, stop wasting time. There are many items that are marked with chasing arrows and a very enticing “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7” but most of them will not be recycled. Only recycle soda or water bottles and milk containers. Also, please rinse the milk jugs really well; because if there is any mold growing in a single jug, an entire batch of recycling has to be tossed out. Second, throw all plastic lids, of any kind, in the trash. The empty 2 liter Coke bottle goes in the recycling, but the little lid goes in the trash. Finally, Keurig cups cannot be recycled and we need to stop using straws. Straws are neither recyclable or necessary; they are a silly luxury that the ocean can not afford.

Now for the good news … keep recycling paper and cardboard! It would appear that this is what we are best at. Just be aware that coffee cups and pizza boxes are not recyclable; and flatten all your boxes—it helps them move more material faster.

We also rock at recycling everyday “Tin” cans. Each can is actually 85 percent steel and those can go around again, and again and again. There is no need to remove the paper label from the outside, but they would like us to recycle the lid. It would help if we slipped the lid inside the can and then crushed the top closed. This way the lid can’t fall out, and it won’t accidentally cut anyone.

Now what about the ubiquitous grocery bags? Well those are being recycled by just one company, Trex. They make lumber from sawdust and plastic, so if you are at Home Depot you should take a look. They recycled 160 billion of our shopping bags last year. However, some of us are leaving receipts in our bags. One receipt can ruin a batch of plastic recycling. So make sure dig out that receipt.

Autum Resney is a Gardnerville resident and an avid recycler.