New Year brings hope for better recycling throughout Brevard


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Recycling can be confusing. It is normal to find people puzzled as to what goes in the recycle bin at home.

Does any plastic container with a chasing arrows symbol imprinted go in the bin? What about the metal base of an unwanted lamp? It is metal. Paper cups are made of paper, so that goes in the recycle bin, right?

Well, those are some questions commonly asked.

The answer to them — No.

That might not come as a surprise. I know it did to many when Recycle Brevard posted on Facebook a list of what cannot be recycled.

That table, available on RecycleBrevard.org, lists common items that are found in recycle bins, but actually don’t belong. That applies to Brevard County and might vary slightly from location to location.

Why don’t they belong? Why doesn’t the hauler take everything?

The business of recycling, like any other business, depends on the market. If there are buyers for certain materials, those materials can be collected and sold to be recycled into other products. Buyers will look for the best product for the money and sellers will look for the best prices for the product they sell — recyclables.

For buyers, “best product” means low rate of contamination in recyclables bought.

Contamination happens when either the wrong material is part of a load or the right material in the load is compromised (e.g. food residues in containers). To avoid that, sellers must collect the right products and weed out the wrong as best as they can. If too much of the wrong product comes into the separation facility, called Material Recovery Facility (MRF), the whole load might end up in the landfill.

Contamination is a big issue. In an article in Florida Today, Waste Management reported removing 3,144 tons of garbage — or 40 percent — from the total load processed in May 2018. That represented a cost of $75,000 for disposal and $24,000 for transporting it all to the landfill.

For sellers, the problem is that “the recycling business stinks these days with the price of commodities such as plastics, metal and paper all in the dumps,” CNBC reported in its 2016 article “Why recycling business is feeling so discarded these days.”

This year, “as part of a broad anti-pollution campaign, China announced that it no longer wants to import foreign garbage and has banned imports of various types of plastic and paper, and tightened standards for materials it does accept,” according to The New York Times.

The market for recyclers worldwide has been affected and “American scrap exports to China fell by about 35 percent in the first two months,” according to The New York Times.

With an average contamination rate of 28 percent and a goal to lower that to less than 10 percent, Waste Management community affairs manager Amy Boyson recommends that residents recycle the basics.

“Recycle plastic bottles, jugs and tubs,’’ Boyson said. “Aluminum, steel and tin cans. Dry cardboard and dry paper.”

To recycle more in the new year, we need to recycle better. Let’s do this, Brevard!

Happy New Year! 

Email Marcia Booth at Marcia@RecycleBrevard.org.