Did you know most of our communities recycling currently is shipped to China? Currently single stream recycling in Coeur d’Alene is picked up by Coeur d’Alene Garbage and taken to their recycling facility in Hayden. From there it is bailed, bundled, and trucked to Pioneer Material Recovery Facility (MRF) in Tacoma with virtually no sorting. Pioneer then sorts the bundled recycling with a modern integrated sorting system. They then ship the sorted recyclable materials to China.
China imported 7.3 million tons of waste plastic last year, taking in over half of the world’s leftover plastic. China does not have a lot of forests or oil, so it is cheap to send our recyclables there in shipping containers that would otherwise go home empty after manufactured goods are ferried here. In recent years, there has been mounting pressure on Communist Party leaders to address China’s staggering pollution problems, which has led to the recent bombshell in the recycling world. China has long had an official standard for allowed contaminates in recyclables they will accept, which was 1.5 percent by weight. In July, China announced a new standard. The level of contaminants in plastic and paper recyclables it buys must be no more than 0.3 percent contaminated by weight.
So what does that mean for us here in North Idaho? Since China is cracking down on taking contaminated recycling, it will no longer accept contaminated recyclables from the Pioneer MRF. So we need to ensure the recycling that CDA garbage receives in their bins is not contaminated by us. We can reduce our contaminated recycling by ensuring we only put accepted items in the recycling bin. Do not put things into your recycling bin if you are uncertain they can be recycled. Additionally, we need to ensure that our recyclables sent to CDA garbage are clean. Wash out your yogurt containers, remove lids, wash out milk jugs, clean out tuna cans, etc. And no plastic bags! (You can recycle those at local grocery stores where they are sent to be recycled into TREX decking.) But, if you send it to CDA Garbage, the bags can get caught in the sorting equipment at the MRF, which can damage their equipment and possibly contaminate the recyclables going to China.
Clean Materials ALLOWED for Recycling:
Cardboard Boxes-“any size”
Aluminum Cans-Foil-Food Trays
Plastic Milk Jugs
Plastic Beverage Containers
Plastic Jars and Tubs
Plastic Trays, Cups and Containers
Plastic Plant Pots
Plastic Pill containers over 4 ounces
Materials NOT ALLOWED:
Used paper towel, paper plates, used napkin, etc.)
Juice Boxes and Milk Cartons
Paper Coffee Cups
Going forward, CDA Garbage will start leaving stickers on those recycling carts that are contaminated. These contaminated recycle carts will be left without removal. If you receive three stickers (“strikes”), CDA Garbage will remove your recycle bin, so you will not be able to recycle anymore. You will then need to take your sorted recyclables to the transfer station, if you wish to continue recycling. So, please heed this warning and start ensuring that our recyclables are not contaminated. Because, if we are not able to reduce the amount of contamination in our recyclables, CDA Garbage is considering reducing what is accepted in our single stream recycling. If China keeps its strong mandate, CDA Garbage may accept only five products: mixed paper, cardboard, aluminum, and #1 and #2 plastics.
This is the same for our glass recycling. If you were unaware the City and CDA Garbage have glass recycle depots at Ramsey and Cherry Hill Park. Our City would like to use the crushed glass for construction projects. How cool would that be if we could actually RE-use our glass locally in roadway projects? Unfortunately the problem is our glass depots are also heavily contaminated with garbage. If we are unable to reduce the amount of contamination in the glass, they may restrict the hours for drop off so they can monitor what goes in the glass depots.
Recycling is important to many people in our community and we hope to continually expand our recycling opportunities, but we could face a reduction if we don’t help. If we can collectively reduce the amount of contamination in our recycling stream, we may be able to continue recycling almost everything. Let’s work together to make that happen!