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DOWNEY - Christmas has come and gone again, and whether you experienced euphoria or exhaustion, it's time to move on to the promise and/or apprehension of another new year.
The New Year is customarily a time for reassessment and recommitment, and, with all the refuse, rubbish, waste, litter, scrap, dross, chaff, flotsam, jetsam and other debris that Christmas generates, there could not be a more appropriate time to review recycling. Whether you're an inveterate recycler or are just wondering what to do with all the Christmas leftovers, let's begin to take a closer look at what actually should be recycled.
As briefly mentioned in last week's article concerning Christmas recycling, some materials are unexpectedly NOT suitable for recycling, such as grease-contaminated cardboard. The same is true--and this may come as a big surprise--for paper drinking cups, most of which are plastic coated, and are therefore inappropriate for either recycling or composting. According to Global Green USA, if the 58 billion paper cups used in the US per year were recycled, "645,000 tons of waste would be diverted from landfills each year," reducing greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of removing 450,000 passenger cars from the road. In fact, one goal of Starbucks, which has been working since 2008 to develop recyclable cups, is "to ensure 100 percent of its cups are reusable or recyclable by 2015."
Those still around from the World War II era remember a time when much was in short supply due to the war effort and rationing was the order of the day. Folks from that generation know from experience what's it's like to recycle rubber and tin cans, as well as other metals. Nowadays, aluminum especially is a prime candidate for recycling. In California, the consumer has the option to redeem aluminum cans for reimbursement of the CRV (California Redemption Value) paid when the containers were purchased. Aluminum is highly recyclable, costing a mere 5% of the initial cost of mining and processing to reuse.
So what exactly should be recycled? There's a great deal of information out there on this topic, but first it's necessary to look at the big picture and how it impacts our own recycling process in Downey. First of all, recycling is market driven. There must be profitable outlets for recycled materials in order for recycling to be viable. Not only is this wisdom generally obvious, but it's also the operating principle for Downey Area Recycling & Transfer (DART), where much of Downey's residential waste is processed through the joint cooperation of CalMet Services and the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County .
The second principle at work here also relates ultimately to profitability, but has to do with the mechanics of sorting through the single-source recyclable materials that arrive at DART from Downey's blue residential recycling bins. Specifically, your recycling is sorted on conveyor belts by a crew of about a dozen to eighteen workers. Consequently, the big items--and the big-ticket items--will get precedence, as your recyclable material travels down those conveyor belts looking for its second life--or possibly a trip to the landfill, its final resting place.
Below, to conclude this week's article, is the CalMet website list of recyclables. This list is in actuality little more than a point of departure for the complexities of what's really worth recycling. And we'll examine these in much greater detail in upcoming columns.
Aluminum cans and foil
Magazines and brochures
Cereal boxes (absent inner lining)
Egg cartons (cardboard only)
Juice and milk cartons
Unsoiled foam cups/plates
Glass bottles and jars
Metal Coat Hangers
Published: December 27, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 37