Hello my trashy babies! Some people think living “zero waste” means I recycle everything in my kitchen. But I try to avoid all single use containers, even recyclable and compostable ones, unless: 1. I can reuse the container, and 2. I need another container.
TIT visited the Casella recycling facility in Charlestown, where garbage flows like water. It was existential. I cried. The overwhelming-ness of the plant is best summed up by this mathematical equation: (Willy Wonka’s factory + deeply wounded garbage chaos) x (Caligula-level orgy)² = my day at Casella.
Globally, recycling is going through big changes, all of which are worthy of discussion in this Pulitzer Prize-winning column. But let’s focus for a minute on becoming more informed recyclers locally.
15-20% of Casella’s haul isn’t recycled. 16 hours a day, humans manually remove plastic bags and other contaminants from the recycling stream. Why is there so much garbage at the recycling facility?
- People try to recycle garbage all the time. It’s a harmful habit known as “wish-cycling.” Wish-cycling compromises worker safety, fux with machinery, and generally wastes time and resources.
- Recyclables can’t be processed if dirty, wet, small, or dark in color. Black plastic can’t be detected by optical sorters; items under 2” are too small to accurately sort; wet and dirty items gum up machinery. They garbage.
- Recycling is a business. To be recycled, a material must have a market value that is profitable for the recycling company. #7 plastic, plastic film, mixed paper, Styrofoam – these materials have low market value. They might have the recycling symbol, but… They garbage.
Curbside Recyclables – must be clean and dry: Corrugated cardboard, boxboard (cereal boxes, paper bags, egg cartons, etc), junk mail, periodicals, office paper, #1-6 plastic containers, plastic gallon pails, metal and food cans, aluminum, tin foil, glass bottles.
Can’t Recycle Curbside: Plastic bags*, plastic film*, plastic packaging*, black plastic, Styrofoam, disposable items (plastic utensils, paper towels, tissues, condiment packets, straws, stirrers, coffee pods, fiber clamshells), disposable cups (Solo, coffee, soda, soup), bagged or dirty recyclables, clothing/textiles*, food waste*, “tanglers” (string, rope, hoses), batteries*, electronics*, anything under 2 inches.
* these items can be recycled/composted in specialty locations – snoogle it
For an Instant-ham highlight of my Casella trip, follow @melsmoviemagic.
Email your garbage questions to [email protected]!