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Recycling by the numbers

Posted February 12, 2014 in Advice Column, Greene County

Prior to starting my job at the Boone County Landfill almost 15 years ago now, I really didn’t know much about recycling.

I remember back in the ’90s at a home show there were recycling containers available from local haulers. I knew you kept it separate from your trash, and it was sent somewhere other than the landfill. I’ve come a long way in my knowledge, but feel a need to learn so much more.

The numbers usually on the bottoms of bottles and containers have a little triangle with a number in it. Greene County Recycling Center takes numbers 1 and 2 along with cardboard, cans, newspapers, magazines, cereal boxes, glass, etc.

Marketability is key in what can be recycled and what is chosen to be accepted. A lot of items say they are recyclable, but if there isn’t a market for it, it becomes trash. Another key is having a marketable quantity.

According to recycling industry information, No. 1 plastics are PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate). They can most often be found in soft drink, water and beer bottles. They can be recycled into polar fleece, fiber, tote bags, furniture, carpet, paneling, straps and occasionally new containers.

No. 1 PET plastic is the most common for single-use bottled beverages because it is inexpensive, lightweight and easy to recycle. It poses low risk of leaching breakdown products. Material is in high demand by remanufacturers. No. 1 PET plastic is recycled into carpeting.

No. 2 plastics are HDPE (high density polyethylene). These are mainly found in milk jugs and juice bottles. No. 2 plastics can be recycled into laundry detergent bottles, oil bottles, pens, recycling containers, carpet, floor tile, drainage pipe, lumber, benches, doghouses, picnic tables or fencing.

HDPE is a versatile plastic with many uses, especially for packaging. It carries low risk of leaching (letting liquids escape) and is readily recyclable into many goods.

Many times the choice of whether or not a recycling center will take certain number is the issue of storage. When numbers 1 and 2 are more prevalent and marketable, that is what you make room for. Your ability to ship them out more often is what you desire.

Recyclables and redeemable cans and bottles are different items. Redeemable items are where you get your nickel back on your returns.

Recycling centers are all different on what they accept and don’t accept. It is always a good idea to check out the rules for your local center.

Information provided by Lois Powers, Boone County Landfill Administrative Services Coordinator.

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