Why Everything in that Blue Bin isn’t Recycled

Don’t assume just because you tossed that empty container into the blue bin that it actually got reborn into a carpet, a T-shirt or another container.

In fact, about a quarter of material placed in those containers around the state won’t be recycled at all.

While much from those containers gets remade — much is shipped to China for processing — the amount that doesn’t could be rising even as enthusiasm for recycling and living greener soars, according to the Container Recycling Institute.

“The public is doing wishful recycling,” said Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste.

Many consumers see the big colored, rolling receptacles that have become staples of suburban streets as catch-all bins. They toss into those bins tons of material that can’t be reused — everything from split garden hoses to soiled diapers.

It’s a big problem amid many other woes for the state’s misfiring recyling circle.

Gnarly PVC parts, unwanted vinyl products and other misplaced goods can jam up sorting machines, slow production and, in the end, offer little recycling value, said Eloisa Orozco, a spokeswoman for garbage company Waste Management.

And that off-target waste often ends up in already jampacked landfills after the cumbersome, costly process of weeding them from the real recyclables.

Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature set an ambitious goal of 75 percent recycling, composting or reduction of solid waste by 2020.  Right now, the state recycles less than half its waste, even though it has some of the highest recycling rates among U.S. states.

The system already faces mammoth challenges. Hundreds of recycling centers across the state have shuttered since last year, stung by plummeting scrap rates on the global market. And that’s despite a state subsidy program intended to help them weather market fluctuations.

Plucking nonrecyclable items from processing has driven up costs for trash collectors and the municipalities that pay them. Meanwhile, the state and local governments are demanding more efficiency.

While the state weighs options for fixing its recycling circle, processors are coming up with their own options.

Officials at Waste Management, one of the largest garbage collectors in Southern California, say they are confronting the problem by trying to get their customers to “go back to basics.”

The company has adopted the mantra: recycle often, recycle right.

To read the full story, visit http://www.presstelegram.com/environment-and-nature/20170708/why-everything-in-that-blue-bin-isnt-recycled.