October is Diabetic Awareness Month and the perfect time to discuss needles and biohazardous waste recycling contamination. Needles are the most dangerous contaminant sent to recycling facilities. Some people dispose of needles in a milk jug or sharps container and place them in their curbside recycling bin. Needles and all biohazardous waste, including syringes that have had the needle removed, are dangerous and never considered recyclable. Recycling trucks have compression mechanisms that can break containers open resulting in dirty needles spreading throughout the entire recycling load. Once loaded on the conveyor belt at the recycling facilities, these needles pose significant health and safety hazards to the people who are touching and sorting recycling.
Needles contaminating recycling
Photo by Esther Davis -Trans-Jordan
If a worker is stuck by a dirty needle, they are sent immediately for baseline laboratory testing. Infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B, and a variety of others are transmitted through dirty needles. Since some diseases do not manifest in the blood immediately, the worker is retested months later. Keep others safe by disposing of needles and biohazardous waste appropriately and never attempt to recycle them.
Your recycling bin is not hungry. It does not crave a midnight snack and it is not interested in finishing the last sip of your soda or bottled water. In fact, recycling bins thrive on a steady stream of plastics, paper, cardboard, and metal that is free of liquids and food. Small quantities of foods and liquids may seem harmless, but the truth is they contaminate recyclable material and contribute to a slew of problems at the materials recovery facility where the recycling material is sorted into individual commodities.
Photo by Beth Holbrook – Waste Management
All recyclables must be free of food and any liquids. When containers that are not empty go in the bin, they ruin good recycling and sometimes result in the entire load going to the landfill. As drink bottles are crushed, liquids spill out and cover surrounding material in a wet, sticky, odorous mess that attracts rodents, insects, and make the material unmarketable. Always remember that when it comes to recycling, Clean is Best – Trash the Rest.
Propane Tanks PDF
Summer is in full swing and barbeque season is underway. As you use your gas-fired barbeque grill, be sure to use the propane tank safely and follow the manufactures’ instructions. Never bring your propane tank indoors or into an enclosed space. If you suspect a leak, do not use the propane tank. Be sure to have a certified dealer perform any maintenance or repairs that are required and do not attempt to empty or cut open a tank.
Photo by Lesha Earl – Trans-Jordan
If your old propane tank has outlived its usefulness, be sure to dispose of it properly! Improper disposal of propane tanks poses a serious safety threat to waste and recycling workers. These tanks contain compressed flammable gas that can cause fires or explosions when compacted inside of garbage trucks. And regardless of their size, propane tanks are never allowed in curbside recycling bins. Even tanks that seem to be empty can contain a small amount of gas that must be properly recovered and the tank depressurized.
Propane tanks can be properly disposed of at outdoor exchange facilities or dropped off at household hazardous waste (HHW) locations throughout the valley. The Trans-Jordan HHW accepts propane tanks for free.
Be Bright Yard Waste PDF
Yard clippings such as grass, and pruned trees, shrubs and plants are considered green waste. Although green waste can be composted, it does not belong in your curbside recycling bin. Green waste stains, spreads, and ultimately ruins good recycling.
Yard waste and wood end up at recycling facilities for a variety of reasons; some may assume that green waste belongs in the recycling bin, others may think that because paper is made from trees, wood can be recycled just like paper, and many people struggle with full garbage cans and just want to get rid of their yard clippings.
Photo By Esther Davis – Trans-Jordan
Regardless of why people have these beliefs and behaviors, green waste and curbside recycling do not mix. Some cities provide a third can for green waste collection. If you do not have a green waste can and have nowhere to put your yard clippings once the trash is full, please do not use your recycling as an extra garbage can. Look for green waste collection events on your city’s website or bring green waste directly to the landfill where it will be accepted for a small fee and transformed into compost and wood chips that benefit the entire community.
Be Bright Bags PDF
Plastic bags are the #1 source of recycling contamination. Bags wreak havoc on the automated equipment at Utah recycling facilities by wrapping around spinning parts. Every day, machinery has to be shut down and plastic bags cut away.
As recycling is sorted at our local materials recovery facility, plastic bags are removed from the recycling stream and sent to the landfill as trash. Plastic bag litter is so problematic that many landfills install large, curved “Jurassic Park” fences to catch airborne bags. Last year, Trans-Jordan landfill spent more than $40,000 on litter control.
Landfill litter control fence
Photo by Mark Hooyer – Bayview/NUERA
Here in Utah plastic bags are not accepted in curbside recycling. Do NOT bag recycling before bringing it out to the bin or place any types of plastic bags (grocery bags, sandwich bags, bread bags, newspaper bags, etc.) in your recycling. Even if it has a recycle symbol or claims to be recyclable, it is not accepted in curbside recycling. Visit http://www.plasticfilmrecycling.org for plastic bag drop of locations. Reusing is always better than recycling, so please remember to bring reusable bags to the store.
Be Bright Intro PDF
By Lesha Earl – Trans-Jordan firstname.lastname@example.org
Curbside recycling benefits most residents in Salt Lake County. It feels good to keep perfectly usable stuff out of landfills and to give our recyclable paper, cardboard, and containers a chance to be made into new products. Yet even well intended recyclers have contributed to recycling contamination due to misunderstanding, inaccurate information, or what those in the industry refer to as “wish-cycling” by placing an item in the bin and hoping it will get sent to the proper place.
Rejected recycling photo by Jason Turville – Trans-Jordan
In Salt Lake County last year, about 19% of recycling was rejected and landfilled due to contamination. So what is contamination and why is it messing up our recycling? Anything that ends up in a recycling bin that does not belong is known as a contaminant. In a perfect situation, a contaminant can be removed in the sorting process, but more often than not the contamination spreads to surrounding material, sometimes even ruining the entire load.
Every month, you will learn about a contaminant, find out why it is harmful, and what you can do to be part of the solution.
Your questions, comments, and ideas are always welcome!
Please contact email@example.com and you may be mentioned in our article or FAQ page. Visit transjordan.org/recycle for more recycling information.
Q: I always carry garbage out to the trash can in garbage bags, is it OK to bag recycling?
A: NO. Please do not bag your recycling. Plastic bags do not belong in curbside recycling cans. Recyclables are clean and dry. If you must line your indoor recycling bin, empty the recycling into the curbside recycling can without the liner.