Let’s Talk Litter!

The Be Bright, Recycle Right! blog has been all about what not to recycle. But let’s take a moment to talk litter. The stuff is everywhere! No one likes trash in their neighborhood. If you have ever visited Trans-Jordan Landfill, you probably noticed litter lining (if not blocking) the streets along the way.

Trans-Jordan spends more than $30,000 a year on litter cleanup in areas surrounding the landfill. All loads that are not tarped incur a double charge. This is enforced to prevent litter, but it is also a state law and city ordinance that all trash loads be fully tarped and secured.

Tarp PSA

We take litter very seriously. But we want to get the message across in a humorous and cheesy video titled The New Adventures of Tarp Girl. Enjoy!



Oil Containers PDF

The familiar circular arrows and number stamped at the bottom of a plastic container does not necessarily mean that the item is recyclable. It is actually a resin identification code that was created in 1988 by the plastics industry to identify the type of resin used in the plastic. Motor oil containers normally contain hazardous contents and are therefore not recyclable.

While there is no way of recycling motor oil containers, you can reduce the amount of waste that is generated by selecting one larger container rather than several smaller ones. This cuts down on the packaging material that is sent to the landfill.


Examples of motor oil containers
Photo by Lesha Earl – Trans-Jordan

Here in Utah, only four shapes of plastic qualify for curbside recycling:

·         Plastic Bottles

·         Plastic Jugs

·         Plastic Tubs

·         Plastic Jars


All other shapes of plastics are not recycled, and eventually end up in a landfill. This includes plastic clamshells that are often used for take-out foods.


Ewaste PDF

After eating past the point of a pleasant plump on Thanksgiving, you may have found yourself with thousands of others waiting to purchase the biggest flat screen television or latest cutting-edge electronic device. If you have upgraded your electronics, or your old ones no longer serve their purpose, you may be faced with the dilemma of where to send your unwanted electronics, also known as “e-waste”.

E-waste is hazardous waste that does not go in either curbside recycling or trash. Many newer devices prominently display an image warning against placing them in the trash. Some electronic devices contain harmful metals such as cadmium, chromium, barium and lead, which pose human health risks.


E-Waste contaminating recycling
Photo by Mark Hooyer – Trans-Jordan Landfill

Reusing is always better than recycling, so if the device is still in working condition, find a good home for it. If it is no longer working, bring it to your nearest e-waste recycling drop-off location. Many retailers provide special bins for e-waste drop off, and the Trans-Jordan Landfill accepts household e-waste recycling for free when received at our Public Convenience Center.

As our society continues to develop more products that “plug in” than ever before, wise and proper disposal of your old e-waste is the least you can do to help keep these toxic components out of our landfills and away from human exposure.


Tanglers PDF

‘Tis the season to put away the garden hose and untangle Christmas lights.  As you winterize the garden and bring out your decorations, remember that long, rope-like objects such as garden hose and Christmas lights do not belong in your curbside recycling bin. Wires, ropes and chains wrap around and damage spinning parts at recycling plants. These items are referred to as “tanglers” by recycling workers Tanglers are problematic at recycling plants because they present considerable safety hazards to the workers who hand-sort our recycling. There is nothing recyclable about tanglers, even if they are made from material (such as metal) that could be recycled.

Hose_editedHose contaminating recycling
Photo by Cody Marshall – Recycling Partnership

On any given day, hundreds of tons of recyclable materials are sorted, baled and shipped to their final recycling destination. The only way to sort large volumes of recycling is to automate the process as much as possible.  Sending tanglers through the automated machinery results in significant damage and maintenance challenges to the machinery, resulting in more downtime to fix and maintain these automated machines.  When it comes to deciding if an item belongs in the curbside recycling, remember that if it can be tangled or is made of more than one type of material, such as plastic and metal (such as wire), it is not recyclable at the curbside.

If you would like to keep tanglers out of the landfill, look for drop-off locations that accept these items to be reused or recycled such as e-waste bins for your wired appliances, and metal locations for your cables and chains. Trans-Jordan’s public convenience center accepts e-waste and metal for free. But if you are unable to bring tanglers to a drop-off location, please do not place them in your curbside recycling, just place them in your trash can instead.


Clothes PDF

Curbside recycling is the perfect place for plastic bottles and containers, cans, paper and cardboard, but it is no place for your wardrobe. Clothing and shoes put in your curbside recycling bin ends up in the landfill. Many thrift stores will gladly accept gently used clothing and shoes, but what about clothing items that are too worn out?

Clothing/shoes contaminating recycling
Photo by Lesha Earl – Trans-Jordan

Some clothing donation drop-off locations like Goodwill and Big Brothers Big Sisters participate in textile recycling. The fibers from worn clothing are turned into things like yarn, insulation, and carpet padding. According to the Council for Textile Recycling, the average US citizen throws away 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles every year. By donating used shoes and textiles, you are keeping valuable material in circulation and saving space at the landfill.

Another option is finding ways to reuse or repurpose your clothing at home. Use the fabric for quilt squares, craft projects or rags for cleaning. Reduce the amount of clothing you use by selecting high quality material that will last and avoiding fast fashion trends that will quickly fall out of style.


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.


Food PDF

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.

Always Properly Dispose of Propane Tanks

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.

No Yard Waste in Curbside Recycling

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.

Greenwaste.jpgPhoto 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.

Plastic Bag Contamination

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.