Keeping Recyclables Clean

Contamination - Why is it important?

Recyclables are the "raw materials" used to make new products. Your recyclables are processed at our Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), where human hands and complex machinery sort them.

But first, your recyclables and your neighbor's recyclables are collected in trucks that compact the material before being delivered to the MRF. When the truck unloads at the facility, your neighbor's jar of tomato sauce has broken and spilled onto the clean recyclables in the load, spreading the contamination. These contaminated materials must now be separated from the clean recyclables and sent to landfill.

The recyclables enter the mechanical system, passing over a series of conveyors where the sorting crew picks through the materials with their hands. Even wearing protective gear, sharp objects such as knives and needles can injure workers.

The recyclables continue their journey across a screen containing rotating rubber disks. Plastic bags, tarps and garden hoses can get wrapped around the disks and shut down the system until the materials can be removed and the equipment repaired. Our crew has to work even harder to keep these items from reaching the screens.

Finally, each sorted material is compacted into large bales and shipped to processors who will make the materials into new products. Bales are scrutinized thoroughly by vendors, who can charge a hefty fee or even reject entire loads that contain contamination. Revenues received from selling recyclables help offset some of the cost of garbage collection, a benefit to all our customers, so it is important that we are able to produce clean materials for our vendors.

There should be no food waste or household garbage in the recycle carts. Containers must be empty with no residual food. Recyclables must not be bagged and everything should fit loosely in the cart so that the cart can empty freely into the collection truck. The exception to this rule is shredded paper, which should be placed in clear plastic bags and tied.

We actively campaign to keep recyclables clean and free of contamination. Our recycling program includes the distribution of educational materials to our customers, presentations to schools and civic organizations, participation at community fairs, free waste assessments for businesses, curbside cart "audits", non-collection of contaminated carts and, ultimately, additional charges to customers who continue to put contaminated materials in recycling carts. Contamination is a serious issue, and we do appreciate your efforts to keep the recycling clean.

For more specific information about what is acceptable in recycling carts, click here.

Recycling Guide PDF