Raleigh residents may have noticed over the last six weeks that more of the plastic items they put in their green recycling bins are not being picked up by the city’s Solid Waste Services trucks.
The city hasn’t changed the rules about what plastic it accepts (only bottles and soft plastic beverage rings), but it had become more lax about rejecting illegal items during the first six months of this year.
On Jan. 1, Raleigh went from sorting recycling at the curb to having its processor sort it for the city. The processor is the company that collects, sorts and finds a market for Raleigh’s recycling. The processor pays Raleigh based on the tonnage of recycling it delivers.
Linda Leighton, a waste reduction specialist with the city, said when trash collectors stopped sorting at the curb they started just dumping the recycling bins no matter what was in them.
“Our crews became pretty lax,” she said. “They would just dump and go, dump and go.”
Soon the processor started complaining that Raleigh’s deliveries had too much contamination, meaning it included too many unacceptable items. The processor has to hand pick those items out and pay to dispose of them.
If Raleigh’s level of contamination is more than 3 percent, the processor may subtract that amount from the city’s tonnage, thus reducing the amount of money Raleigh gets for its recycling.
In recent weeks the city has been more proactive about not picking up illegal plastics. It’s also begun leaving behind a note reminding residents of what plastic items are allowed.
“From January until now they got used to throwing in anything they felt like throwing in,” Leighton said. “But we’ve got to get them back on the right track.”
Leighton has also recorded a two-minute video that can be viewed here.