The Recycle Bin: Welcome to The Recycle Bin


Welcome to your new, weekly question and answer column on what to recycle, what not to recycle — and why. The public is encouraged to submit questions to [email protected]

In talking with friends, neighbors, and my colleagues on the Brunswick Recycling and Sustainability Committee, I have developed a deep sense that our citizens strongly support recycling and trash reduction, but have seen very little guidance on how best to go about it. This new column is designed to provide citizens with the latest, researched information currently available on how to approach our recycling efforts, and is tailored to the practices of our local processing company.

People would be delighted to do the job in any way at all, but they need to know what the rules are! The fact that the rules are constantly changing certainly doesn’t help that problem, but the Recycling and Sustainability Committee is focused on keeping people as informed as possible on where the needs and rules currently stand.

In the past year or so, municipal recycling has gone from a profit center to a loss center because of the collapse of the commodities market for the recycled materials. We will discuss that a little in next week’s column, but it mostly means we need to do a couple of things, as a community, in order to weather the disaster until prices return to better levels (and there are already signs of that starting for certain categories of materials).

The first thing we all need to do is to be highly aggressive in removing what are considered to be “contaminants” in our recycling. These are any items that actually can not be recycled. The lists of good and bad items is very long, but we hope, through this column and our other public education efforts, to remove the non-recyclables from the waste stream at the curb – before the recycle bins are collected.

Our plan is to approach the problem in a couple of ways at once. We first mean to get information out there that will let consumers correctly decide whether an item can be recycled or not. We then mean to find ways in which those items which we cannot recycle can be eliminated entirely.

Strong community action will be needed on both fronts. The Recycling and Sustainability Committee intends to put out as much information as possible, in as many places as possible, to keep people thinking about recycling and keep them better informed on how best to do it. My part, as a concerned citizen, is going to be to publish this column on a regular basis as we go forward. Together, we all need to become ever more aware of what we’re recycling and, even more, what we’re throwing into the trash, and where we get it. At the end of the day, it’s going to be a serious reduction in trash and recyclables moving through our lives that will make the real difference.

Harry Hopcroft is a member of the Brunswick Recycling & Sustainability Committee.

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