While some recycling opportunities have diminished this decade, some local advocates say many options for recycling remain.
Some dropoff sites have closed due to cost-deficiency, such as in Independence or Blue Springs, but many citizens have a chance to use curbside recycling. In Independence, Blue Springs and Lee's Summit, at least half of the licensed trash haulers offer curbside recycling, according to the regional guide site recyclespot.org.
“Contact your trash service provider; it might be a few dollars more per month, but it's worth it because it's curbside,” says Audrey Elder, a local Realtor and preservationist who publishes the blog “Meaningful Living.”
The larger issue, some advocates say, is how effective that recycling is, and consequently if it's worthwhile for waste haulers.
“A lot of dropoff options that used to be around aren't because the contamination rate was so high that it wasn't worth it; it was basically collecting trash,” said Matt Riggs, outreach coordinator.
“There's more convenience now as opposed to 10 years ago, as a lot of communities have curbside recycling. The biggest problem is the contamination.”
Dusty Ferrell, vice president of Ted's Trash in Independence, agrees with that sentiment. His business offers curbside recycling and also has drop-off bins open to the public, though they had to cut out weekend hours there due to overflow.
“The main thing on commercial recycling is when they stick (a contaminant) in the dumpster and we don't see it,” Ferrell said. When it gets to the vendor and a container is compromised, “then they charge us for load. Our drivers try to do a good job of pulling those out if they see it.”
“About the only thing you can make anything on is cardboard or aluminum or metals.”
This partially explains why China stopped accepting plastics from the United States, they say.
“We'd been sending them bales that were more trash than recyclables,” Riggs said. “We've started sending to other countries in Asia, but they don't have near the capacity as China. In some places it just becomes landfill.”
“Luckily, here in the Midwest, our (material recovery facilities) all have regional markets where they send stuff.”
Riggs estimates that in the metro area about 98 percent recycling material collected goes to a recovery facility in Harrisonville or Shawnee and Lawrence on the Kansas side.
“It's commodity,” Riggs said of recyclables. “They still have some value in its purest form.”
A few of Elder's tips and reminders for recycling:
• Bubble wrap and air pocket packaging plastic can be recycled, just not in curbside. Take it with plastic grocery bags to a recycling bin at the store, instead.
“After I make sure they're all popped, this is still film plastic, what you're grocery bag is made of, what you're toilet paper's wrapped in,” Elder said. “Film plastic is everywhere.”
• If you take aluminum cans to hopefully sell for a couple bucks, make sure there's no aluminum foil with it. (Aluminum foil can't be soiled to be recyclable, anyway.)
• Glass is easy to recycle with Ripple bins in many places, and “It's a fantastic alternative to aluminum, gets recycled locally and gets turned into insulation, which is a fairly locally sold.”
• Peanut butter cans, like many plastic food containers, are good as long as they're properly cleaned/rinsed out. “It's a myth they can't be recycled,” she said.
• Take advantage of drop-off sites. Large bulk items often can be taken there. A private drop-off site next to the American Legion hall on Missouri 7 in Blue Springs also remains, with limited hours.
• Styrofoam, even as common as it is, can't go, as there's no local facility to properly handle it.
Besides plastic film, Riggs said the other trend he's seen is more cardboard being recycled.
“The big increases come from age of Amazon,” he said.
The biggest contaminant Riggs sees are the plastic bags people mistakenly put in curbside.
“They clog up machines,” he said. “A good deal are recyclable; just take them to grocery stores.”
The biggest contaminants Ferrell says they encounter: dirty food containers and greasy pizza boxes. Shredded paper, like plastic bags also can gum up sorting machines and isn't allowed.
The best way to keep recycling accessible enough to citizens, Riggs said, is getting contamination down, and for that, “Education is probably the biggest part.”
For that, MARC's recyclespot.org site has a handy flyer on do's and don'ts for recycling. Riggs calls it their “Rosetta Stone.”
“If we could get one in every home,” he said, “that would be awesome.”
See Audrey Elder in a video conversation about recycling options and about ways to reduce the waste stream on The Examiner’s Facebook page.
Go to www.facebook.com/examiner.net/videos/583565085791870/