Contaminated Recycling…is this you?

We have all been there. There’s no one around and we have a mix of garbage and recycling to place in one of our containers. What do we do? A majority of us will take the time to separate it out into each container and others may just place it all in the garbage container, not taking the time to separate out the recycling – boo hoo! Still others will just place it ALL in the recycling container, INCLUDING THE GARBAGE and that is called contamination.

Whoa, now! Let’s take a closer look so we are have a better understanding.

Those of us who separate out the recycling and do our part to keep as much waste out of the landfill are on the right path. The main goal of having varied sizes for your garbage container and only one large size for your recycle container, is to encourage recycling. The easier it is to recycle, the more of us will do it….or that is the thinking anyway. So, many will focus on the ideology of placing only their bare bones waste in their garbage cart and all of their recyclables in their larger recycle cart. Good job!

Next, we have those who are most likely not into recycling, which is fine. I can understand that but with just a little effort and having both carts right next to each other, one can recycle half of their household items, so why not separate it out? I never took the time to separate out my recycle at first. But once I did, I began to see that I filled my recycle cart about 3 times more than my smaller garbage cart.

This can be you too. If it is a option in your community, it makes it so easy to recycle and minimize your waste. You don’t have to be WasteZero right off the bat so start small and graduate up. And to start just work on placing a few items in the recycle cart and you will see it is an easy process. But, if you are going to be lazy in this category placing it all in the waste container is better than placing it all in the recycle container.

This option is at the bottom of the list and one that causes more work for many others downstream in the recycling process. Throwing your garbage in YOUR RECYCLING! Sinner! Ha…but this actually does more harm than you would think. Your single steam recycling is going to be sorted at some point and the more garbage in there, the more work for those sorting.

Of course, there will be some garbage that gets into the recycling but the more there is, the more work and time delays it causes the sorters. Contaminating the recycling can generate fines in some jurisdictions but it is the principle in that it does not belong in that container in the first place. Then it dirties the good clean recycling and causes more work for sorters to spend their time, which is just a bad deal all the way around.

So, why make more work for others where you don’t need to? Just be conscious and understand what is acceptable as recycling and do your best to make it happen. You can recycle many items without really thinking about it and it takes little effort. Try that this week – pay a little more attention to what you recycle and what you don’t!

Do you find this issue where you live or is it not that big of a deal? Have you ever bee fined or had you recycle cart checked for contamination? I’d love to hear back on how recycling is handled in your community.



Author: Damon Shea

Currently, I operate a waste hauling and recycling company in Northeastern California and I am also working through an eMBA program. Per one of my courses we are emerging ourselves into social media and that is my main purpose behind blogging and all of the other social avenues that I am involved with. My blog will focus on the waste & recycling industry and any subject matter within. Born into the waste hauling business, I have been playing in and around garbage containers since a child and am not afraid to haul away what you throw out. As a leader/manager, I have found that it is the people who do the work and not the equipment, so I have focused on understanding all peoples, especially my team. About me personally, I am of Italian/Irish decent, Roman Catholic. I am the youngest of three children and am now married with a beautiful strong wife and two awesome girls. Through my job, I am a member of Rotary International and I also sit on the board of our local Chamber of Commerce. We are heavily involved with building up the community that we serve and will do all in power to make garbage and recycling an easy process. Together we can explore the myths and realities of the waste & recycling industry and perhaps still make the world a better place.