Single stream recyclables from SSRC towns are sorted and baled for sale at the Waste Management Avon plant. Workers and machines separate it into individual materials to be made into new products. Items that don't belong in the mix make it harder, and even dangerous, to sort effectively. This devalues the good material, and has driven costs up a lot.
Residents do some of the sorting at our drop-off towns, but many of the same rules apply.
To make sure what you put in the bin doesn't end up in the landfill, make sure it is:
- Dry - wet materials stick to each other and can't be properly sorted. Think laundry detergent.
- Clean - dirty material mucks up everything around it, and can stink up the whole load. Most material travels a distance, sometimes in extreme heat. Think ketchup.
- Loose, single, easily separable materials - Paper can't be made from plastic. Plastic can't be made from metal. Items that have multiple materials stuck together can't be made into a new product. End users can deal with tape, windows and labels,. They can't pull cardboard out of overwrap, or separate embedded plastic from a paper cup.
- Size matters - tiny = trash. Containers smaller than 3 oz. often fall through the first screen with the glass. Think prescription bottles. Foam packing and shredded paper get into everything.
- 2D = paper
- 3D = bottles, cans, containers. Flattened containers can end up with the paper.
- Rigid plastic containers #1,2,5 - Don't let the misleading recycling symbol on plastics fool you. Non-containers, black plastic, and plastics #3,4,6 and 7 are not marketable. Plastic bags (and metal hangers, ribbons, string lights...) get tangled in the sorting equipment, creating hazards and causing costly shutdowns
- Bottles, tubs, clear cups and yogurt-type containers are the only plastics with value in the single stream.
Discover the proper way to recycle plastic bags and other tanglers (holiday lights, clothing, etc.) This does not just go for Chicago, but for everywhere.