Recycling contamination is a serious issue that generally doesn’t receive enough attention from the public, or even within the recycling/waste industry itself. Contamination issues usually begin in the household when non-recyclable materials end up in the recycle bin with the recyclable goods. Often, this ends up degrading the recyclables. The first step in combating this problem is to educate the public about the dangers of tossing non-recyclable material into the recycle bin and just assuming that a worker at a processing center will sort it out.

What Constitutes Contamination?

  • Remnants of leftover food in recyclable containers
  • Leftover liquids (even water) inside plastic bottles
  • Hazardous material, such as paint and batteries

Paper, cardboard, and plastic commodities are among the most common recyclable materials. However, if the material comes into contact with contaminants, such as cooking grease or mercury from leaked batteries, then the quality of the material is greatly diminished. It may even have to be discarded altogether.

Let’s explore ways to curtail recycling contamination. Most of these methods begin in the household.

Rinse Out the Material

Always rinse bottles and other containers that stored food or beverages. This includes the typical aluminum cans, two-liter soda bottles, food tin cans, etc. The items don’t have to be squeaky clean, but they shouldn’t contain visible traces of food/liquid either.

Also, some households place recyclable materials into a plastic bag before tossing them into the recycle bin. Please don’t do this as plastic bags do not belong in a recycle bin.

Know What’s Recyclable

This may seem obvious, but items that may appear recyclable may not be. A good example is frozen food trays. They’re made from paper, so they may appear recycle-friendly. However, most frozen food trays contain a coating that prevents freezer burns. This renders the item non-recyclable. The same goes for disposable cups with wax or plastic coatings. We suggest referring to a guide like Waste Management to determine what is and isn’t recyclable.

New Technology Implementations

Beyond the household, novel solutions can also occur at the industrial level, most notably at materials recovery facilities (MRF). MRFs consist of hundreds of employees that manually and painstakingly sort tons of incoming recycled material on a daily basis. Despite their best efforts, contaminants still occasionally pass through unnoticed. However, technology companies are exploring robots programmed to sort recyclables. Robots can perform the job at a far greater speed and precision. Artificial intelligence isn’t at the level yet where it can perform this task across all MRFs nationwide, but we’re getting there.

We Are Part of the Sustainability Initiative

Sustainability begins in the household. However, there is also a significant role to be played at the industrial level. Waste pickup companies and contractors can streamline their existing fleet with a disposal truck rental from Big Truck Rental. Our trucks utilize the latest technology for increased fuel efficiency and reducing time on the road. Contact us today to enquire about our plans.

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