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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Wow, Santa Monica really does have resident-friendly recycling.

I wrote to the city in order to clarify the reality of their recycling program. Here are my questions and responses (Edited for clarity):

I hear some people in my office say "it doesn't matter which bin you put your recycling in, it all gets sorted at the end." Is this true?

As long as recyclable items are put in to a "recycling" bin, it does not matter what the items are. Santa Monica has a commingled recycling program in which all recyclables can be placed in a single container. The idea is to make recycling easier and more convenient for everyone. All the recyclables are then sorted by commodity at the recycling center.

Oftentimes I'll see a trash and recycling container side-by-side, yet there are things like plastic bottles in the trash. I have an urge to move things that are recyclable from the trash to the recycling bin. My question is: is that actually worth my time? Does this actually make a difference in how it gets treated?

That said, if recyclables are put in to the garbage, then no - they are not sorted out. All items in the refuse bins are taken to the Transfer Station (not the recycling center) and then straight to the landfill. It is true that sometimes recyclables are sorted out of the trash by scavengers, but this isn't the sort of practice we'd like to promote. So, YES - it IS worth your time to separate out your trash from your recyclables if you are concerned about the recyclables getting to the right location.

Sorting also helps reduce your (or your office's) trash bill, because most of what is thrown out is recyclable. Say an office pays for a 3-yard trash bin to be emptied 3 times a week, but then has the office occupants sort out the recyclables. Recycling pick up is FREE in the City of Santa Monica. If a large portion of recyclables are then diverted out of the trash stream, the office can downsize to a smaller container (perhaps with fewer pickups per week) and realize a significant savings.

It's my understanding that commingling paper with glass makes separating the two difficult. For instance, New York City requires paper to be in one container while glass, plastic and metal sit in another container. In my office, though, we just put everything in one container. Is this genuinely sufficient for Santa Monica recycling?

Different cities have different methods of dealing with recyclables. Some have buyers who want the items pre-sorted, but the City itself doesn't have the manpower or space available to provide the sorting. Those cities require citizens to pre-sort their recyclables. Hopefully, those cities also provide their citizens with appropriate containers for all the sorted items. As I mentioned, Santa Monica utilizes a commingled recycling system in which all recyclable items can be placed in any blue recycling container - even the big 300-gallon ones in the alleys around the City.

How important is it to wash or rinse food containers before putting them in recycling?
Washing and rinsing food containers is voluntary. However, insects and other pests will certainly be attracted to unwashed food containers piled up in a collection bin, so that's something to consider.

Before putting plastic in the recycling bin, I check the number on the back. My presumption is that you recycle 1s and 2s, and dispose the rest. What do you accept? How important is it that I check the number before recycling?

We accept plastic with recycling numbers 1 through 5. This includes soda bottles, plastic bags, meat wrapping film, sandwich bags, yogurt cups, Tupperware and anything else with a 1 through 5 designation. Plastic number 6 is Styrofoam and we do not accept that right now, as it is non-recyclable. Plastic number 7 is "Miscellaneous" and can include plastic made from numbers 1 through 6, so we do not accept that right now, either. If you do not check the number on the bottom of the container, it will certainly be checked at the recycling center.

I hope this answered your questions. Please let me know if you need any additional information about recycling or any of the other programs we offer.
Update: I have added a second set of questions and answers.


dianejwright said...

Thanks! This is perfect. I'm spreading it like wildfire to my homeowners' association and neighbours. I almost want to paste it on the bins but we all know that no one reads anymore.

dianejwright in sunset park

Idaho House said...

Thank you. Top of the google search I did to find this information.

Anonymous said...

This is very helpful. thank yoU!

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Thanks so much! Very helpful.