About 30 percent of what is dropped off at the Corbin Recycling Center is garbage, says Roger Shelton, Director of the city’s recycling program.
The numbers line up with other recycling centers nationwide, but Shelton would like to see that amount come down.
“We get inundated with house garbage sometimes … coffee grounds, apple peels and banana peels,” he said. “Then there’s the really nasty stuff like meat packaging. All that stuff needs to just go to the landfill.”
Shelton is asking those who use the center to be mindful of what they bring. Daily, Recycling Center employees filter out contaminating garbage from true recyclables. The task is necessary, Shelton said, to reduce what is called “shrinkage” — when companies that buy recyclables reduce what is paid to suppliers because of contamination.
“Shrinkage” can come from many things. Cardboard filled with metal staples or Styrofoam can be a problem, for instance.
“One of the worst things is cat food cans,” Shelton said. “Whenever they are in there, and they are by the hundreds, the oil in the cans will go into everything when it rains,” Shelton said. “In the summer, it becomes alive with gnats and flies and maggots. It’s pretty bad.”
Shelton said another problem, besides people just bringing items that simply aren’t recyclable at all, is bottles that have been used to hold tobacco spit.
Recycling officials say best practice, when dropping off recyclables, is to do so during normal business hours, Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Outside of normal business hours, recyclables can be placed in portable trailers that are in different locations around the city: several at the center itself, Corbin High School, Corbin Intermediate School, Master Street and Lynn Camp High School.
Recyclables are not to be left outside of the trailers for any reason.
Shelton said the center would take any plastic, as long as it is at least as thick and stiff as a water bottle. No plastic grocery sacks or food wrapping.
Cardboard is good as long as it is dry and at least as thick as a greeting card.
Right now, Shelton said cardboard is the most lucrative item for the center, bringing about $85 per ton. Shredded paper is second best.
Plastics bring about $35 a ton.
Shelton said the market on newspaper is so volatile it is difficult to name even an average price.
Aluminum and tin cans bring only pennies on the pound despite being a much better seller years ago.
“The market just got flooded with that stuff,” he said.
Corbin’s recycling center isn’t necessarily a profitable venture, but Shelton said it has its value. It offsets the cost of tons of material being placed in the local landfill. Also, it satisfies what many citizens see as a moral imperative to conserve the world’s resources.
“People want to recycle, I think. It’s a good thing to do,” Shelton said. “I’m not worried about people losing interest in it at all, but I am concerned about overseas markets crashing on where it doesn’t become feasible to recycle. If the mills get to the point where they can’t make a profit, they will shut down.”