Michelle Metzler

Sorting it out | Guest editorial

Rolling recycling carts to the curb each week is a ritual shared in neighborhoods across the Kirkland community. Most of us do a great job recycling the basics — aluminum cans, paper, cardboard and plastic bottles, tubs and jugs. But some of us get confused when it comes to things like plastic straws, broken plates, used paper towels or greasy pizza boxes.

You might include these items in your recycling in hopes that Waste Management will find a way to recycle them. We call this wishful recycling. It may sound playful, but in reality, it creates extra work, adds to local recycling costs and decreases the quality of recyclable materials.

The point of recycling is to use waste to create new materials. We do this by sorting materials into categories at the recycling facility. The basic groups are paper, cardboard, ferrous (made of iron) and non-ferrous metals and numerous types of plastic. We sort using a combination of machines and hardworking employees, picking materials off a sort line.

So, what does our team do when non-recyclable items like broken plates and garden hoses arrive at recycling facilities? We pull them out, load them back on trucks and haul them to landfills. This slows the recycling process and adds extra work and cost to our local recycling system.

On occasion, non-recyclable items slip through our recycling facility and end up at the paper mill or plastics manufacturer. Here, the items are pulled out by employees or machinery, increasing costs again and decreasing productivity.

Items that are not recyclable or compostable belong in the trash. When placed in the recycling, they will eventually end up at the landfill anyway. It will just be a more expensive and lengthy journey to get there.

The recycling system works best when we each do our part. Your Waste Management team is committed to helping you understand what’s recyclable and why good sorting at home is so important.

What can you do to help? Check the recycling guidelines for Kirkland to see what belongs in your recycling cart. Items on the recycling guide have been approved because they can be sorted efficiently and because manufacturers will buy these items for use in new products.

Improve your home recycling system by placing containers throughout your house. In most homes, the kitchen, the office and the garage are all great places for recycling containers. You can even print labels for recycling bins on our website at RORR.com.

Thanks for contributing to a healthy recycling system. The planet appreciates it and so do your sustainability partners at Waste Management.

Michelle Metzler is Waste Management’s recycling education and outreach manager. Learn more at sustainability.wm.com.

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