Keep those shreds out of the recycling bin, but they aren’t trash either


Without a shred of a doubt I can.

It’s basically the same reason I don’t use tweezers when cleaning up after I use my confetti cannon to celebrate my brilliance.

The size of the shredded paper makes it impossible to sort at the facilities that separate your paper from your plastic drink bottles and metal cans.

The convenience of curbside recycling, which has changed since it was initially adopted, allows households to mix their recycling. Where we once had to sort paper from plastics, we can now toss it all together and walk away.

In part, the convenience stems from the past practice of selling mixed loads of plastics to a single buyer — China. Then, in 2018, China decided to stop providing a market for plastic waste, which was being sent to the country for sorting.

The lost market left haulers with the need to sort their own loads or find someone who would do it for them. (The other option would have been forcing customers to return to sorting at the curb.)


Unlike the general trash in Olmsted County, the loads of recycling aren’t dropped off at the county’s Waste-to-Energy facility. It’s up to the individual haulers to find a market for the recyclables, meaning they need to be taken elsewhere to be sorted and hopefully sold.

The process, along with a troubled market, has led to added costs for haulers, especially related to contaminated loads.

In addition to being unable to sort tiny paper scraps, the machines that separate recyclables are often fouled by plastic grocery bags, which are not recyclable, but still end up in recycling bins.

One stray plastic bag can gum up the works, forcing the sorting machines to shutdown, with the cost — a $100 to $500 charge — passed on to trash haulers.

While those pesky grocery bags should be tossed in the regular trash bin for a trip to Olmsted County’s Waste-to-Energy plant, the same isn’t necessarily true for shredded paper.

Olmsted County’s Recycling Center Plus will take your shredded paper, since it requires all recyclables to be presorted. That requirement reduces the county’s need to spend time and money sorting the loads they deliver for recycling.

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