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Recycling Center in Shawnee County has message to recyclers

Plastic Bags are the Biggest Culprit of Inefficiency
Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 10:15 AM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Most people get excited about recycling and why shouldn’t they? Not only is it good for Earth’s natural resources, but it can extend the life of a landfill.

“Everything that we can get through here that’s good recyclable material,” says Tronnie Blair, District Manager of Recycling for Waste Management of Kansas, “it means it’s not going to be sent to the landfill next door.”

Blair also notes, however, that placing the wrong items in a recycling bin places added stress on the recycling facility.

“Really what we need people to focus on is removing anything that’s not recyclable. Tanglers is what we like to call them. Anything that’s wrappable like plastic bags, garden hoses, Christmas tree lights and those kinds of things, but the bags really give us a lot of problems. They tangle up in the equipment and make the machine not as efficient as it should be.”

Blair says that contamination rates at the facility serving Shawnee County are upwards of 20 percent. That’s roughly 10 percent higher than ideal levels.

After being sorted and bailed, the facility then sells the recyclable material to processors across the United States. The prices of the recyclable material acts like any other commodity and experiences highs and lows in pricing.

Bill Sutton is the Solid Waste Director for Shawnee County and he is confident that the recycling program in Shawnee county is here to stay.

“This past May was the first month since May of 2018 that the program has actually turned a profit,” says Sutton, “The department is healthy enough on our refuse side to absorb some of those costs on the recycling side, so our recycling program is not going away anytime soon.”

Sutton added that the recycling program has only added about 2 months to the lifespan of the landfill which has an additional 46 years before max capacity is reached.

Blair wants everyone who recycles to know that information about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable for the recycling facility can be found on the Waste Management website under the Recycle Often, Recycle Right section.

“When in doubt,” says Blair,” throw it out and go find out.”

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