Changes to recycling rules leave consumers’ heads spinning

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Growing up, I can vividly remember the flood of reading material that made its way to our home. We subscribed to both the morning and afternoon newspapers, as well as Life magazine. Friends bestowed a subscription to National Geographic at one time.

My father would drive downtown occasionally to get the latest edition of Coin World or the more sophisticated Numismatic News, both tabloid size, newsprint products. So was the Hockey News, my favorite.

Somehow, it didn’t seem right to gather the newspapers together every couple of weeks and tie them together with twine, like blindfolding a man about to be executed. These stacks would be relegated to the garage until our church or a local Scout troop had a “drive” for such products as a fundraising project. It was said that they left the papers outdoors overnight so that the dew would make them heavier, resulting in a higher cash return.

Yet there was nowhere to go for the glossy paper publications. They were tossed in the trash with chicken bones, used tissues and coffee grounds.

Both destinations seemed like such an utter waste.

Glass recycling? Plastic recycling? Sorry, still decades away.

Most communities eventually adopted some form of recycling in the years that followed, but schedules were inconsistent. Some towns and villages only accepted recyclables every other week while others were doing the good deed every seven days. Rural communities relied on “transfer stations” where residents could drop off their materials in kind of a glorified dump.

Enter the recycling tote with folding lid. In England, they are known as “wheelie bins.”

Rules varied (again) as to what could be recycled depending on the firm handling the weekly pickup. Now we could recycle items made of glass and most made of plastic, in addition to newspapers and other paper products. But as recently as the end of last year, municipalities began to rein in just what qualified for recycling.

“New recycling guidelines are in response to the recycling crisis affecting the nation, after China and other Asian countries began limiting the amount of recyclable materials being imported,” according to the Amherst Highway Department Facebook page. “This means some materials that were once recyclable no longer have any value or recyclability. These materials are now costing the Town more in processing fees to sort them out, so we are asking residents to please consider leaving them out of their recycling tote(s).”

The news got worse.

“Leave out any colored glass,” the department added. “Colored glass is also no longer recommended for curbside pickup since it’s hard to recycle when mixed with clear glass; you may take colored glass to various private recycling centers around town for other opportunities.”

Or, just throw it away in the trash.

According to the Erie County websites, the list of items that cannot be recycled is growing. It includes such simple entities as crayons and coat hangers. It offers links to firms that can process such material, but that adds a step to a process that many residents already consider an imposition, especially when trying to drag a tote through the snow.

Modern Disposal, which has the contract for the Town of Amherst, recently sent out a mailer urging correct recycling procedures.

“Waste and recyclables travel different courses, but each require tremendous effort and energy to ensure they are managed in an environmentally sound fashion,” Modern stated.

I’m doing the best I can.

(David F. Sherman is managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at dsherman@beenews.com.)



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