Most plastics now allowed back in recycle bins, City says
Sacramento residents can resume putting most plastics in their blue recycling bins, the city Public Works Department announced Wednesday.
This past June, the City told residents they should put only items labeled 1, 2 or 3 in their bins, a category that includes water bottles, soda bottles and milk jugs. Anything that was labeled 4 through 7, including squeezable bottles, meat trays and disposable plates, was no longer being accepted by Waste Management, which handles the City’s recyclables. The number correlates with the type of plastic used in a container. The lower the number, the easier it is to repurpose.
The reason: China, the biggest buyer of recyclables, had imposed new contamination rules that ruled out many plastic food containers.
In the past several months, Waste Management has worked to find new markets for all the plastics typically placed in residential blue bins. The City has determined there is enough capacity with the processor to again accept the number 1-7 plastics, and that it will be able to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
The fluctuations of the recycling market have signaled a new normal for waste disposal. Not every piece of plastic put in the blue bin will be able to be repurposed. Processors may have to store some plastics while waiting for markets to open up. Also, not every item with a recycle number is accepted in the recycle waste stream. Styrofoam egg cartons and plastic bags are not recyclable, for example.
“It has been a wake-up call to most communities,” said Erin Treadwell, Community Outreach Manager with the City’s Recycling and Solid Waste Division. “Recycling education for years has leaned toward making it easy for the consumer, with the idea of tossing all plastics in the blue bin. However, with a more volatile market, customers need to be more mindful of both what they consume and recycle. Recycling is still a waste stream. Reducing waste by avoiding buying items made from plastic is the best way to support a sustainable community.”
To help residents, the City has updated its online Waste Wizard, a tool for the public to use to learn if an item is recyclable as well as how to dispose of many household items. For more information, visit www.sacrecycle.org