As of March 1, Southbridge recycling bins with contents that are more than 15 percent non-recyclable materials won’t be emptied during their scheduled pickup every other week, interim recycling coordinator Anna Smith said. Letters notifying residents and property owners of the plan went out this week. Inspectors also put stickers on offending residents’ bins.

In the meantime, officials will continue to flip open recycling bins to inspect what’s inside. If non-recyclable materials are in view, a green “oops” sticker is affixed to the bin. The green stickers note that everyone makes mistakes, and the inspectors mark off the reason why the resident erred in their recycling, such as putting in plastic shopping bags or grease-stained pizza boxes.

As of Tuesday, about 600 recycling bins had been tagged with the “oops” stickers since inspectors started looking through bins on Jan. 21, Ms. Smith said. In line with a worldwide push for “cleaner” recycling, the town program accepts emptied and rinsed metal food and beverage cans, plastic bottles, jars, jugs and tubs, glass bottles and jars. Empty and flat paper and cardboard are also accepted. But it does not accept garbage, plastic bags, plastic wrap, food, liquid, clothes, linens or hoses, wires, chains and electronics.

Southbridge, through Casella Waste Systems, provides residents with weekly curbside collection of true trash in 64-gallon bins, and bi-weekly collection of recycling. The programs are for dwellings that do not exceed six units. Town regulations state that recycling of paper, cardboard, glass bottles, cans and single polymer plastics is mandatory.

On behalf of the town, Casella audited residents’ recycling and found that on average, more than 25 percent of it was non-recyclable items. Plastic bags are found most often, Ms. Smith said. The most frequently found items that shouldn’t go in recycling were plastic bags, textiles, and scrap metal, officials said. Metal is recyclable, but items larger than a can should be taken to a metal recycling facility, said Andrew R. Pelletier, director of inspectional services. The health department has billed the effort as a campaign to clean up recycling, and to not let recycling efforts go to waste – literally.

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