“What’s in, what’s out?” teaches recycling rules

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – November 15 is America Recycles Day, and this is also the day the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is launching its new recycling education campaign.

If you throw something in a recycling bin in Connecticut, there’s a good chance it ends up in the Materials Innovation & Recycling Authority (MIRA) in Hartford. The trouble is, a lot of stuff ends up in the recycling plant that should not be here.

“A lot of materials that come in could be unsafe for staff,” explained DEEP Environmental Analyst Sherill Baldwin.

Things like propane tanks that can explode when they go through the machinery. Then there are things like hoses and ropes that can wrap around the machinery and jam it. Then there are all the things that people hope can be recycled, but can’t. Around MIRA they call that “wishful recycling.”

“Those materials that don’t belong in the blue bin, they can cause problems in facilities in this one, and that wishful recycling becomes a real pain in the neck when it ends up in the stream behind us,” said DEEP Commissioner Rob Klee.

That’s why the state just launched a new education campaign called “What’s in, What’s out?” Here are some of the rules:

  • Bottle caps from – “IN” recycling bin if they are on the bottle, loose caps are “OUT” and should be put in the trash.
  • Pizza boxes – “IN” recycling bin if no food or liners.
  • Shredded paper – Keep “OUT” of recycling bin and should be put in the trash. Dust created by shredded paper causes issues at recycling facilities
  • Plastic bags – Keep “OUT” of recycling bin and “OUT” of the trash. Plastic bags – and other “plastic wrap” items – should be kept separate and taken back to one of the many retail locations that accept them.  Sorted plastic bags and wraps are a valuable commodity as they can be used to make outdoor decking material.

The What’s in, What’s out?” campaign has ads, widgets, magnets, stickers and posters educating everyone. The education is important because even all the people who spend their days sorting the recycling cannot catch everything that does not belong. That stuff then ends up contaminating the bales of newspaper, plastic and cardboard. Those bales are then sold to manufacturers all over the world for serious money. Those buyers do not want contaminated bales, however, and they send quality control testers to MIRA to check them out.

“If their commodities are not valuable, it’s very difficult for them to sell,” Baldwin said.

So they are trying to get the word out that throwing things that do not belong into the blue recycling bin just wastes time and money. The campaign’s website also has a lot of tips for ways to recycle or re-use items that you cannot put in the blue bin.

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