“Recycle often. Recycle Right” is the motto for Waste Management, but many Lehi residents are recycling wrong. In a Lehi City Council pre-council meeting, Blake Leonelli of Waste Management reported of the 6,107 tons of recycled products in Lehi, only 11.72% could be sold. According to reports, one in four items placed in a recycling bin isn’t actually recyclable.
Waste Management uses a single-stream process which means all recycled products go into one bin. The single-stream process also means an entire batch of materials can be contaminated easily. According to Waste Management’s website, “Have you ever heard the phrase, “one bad apple spoils the bunch?” The same is true for recycling, where one non-recyclable item can spoil an entire batch of otherwise good materials. It may seem like such a small detail – a wrong item in the recycling bin – but it represents a global problem that’s preventing thousands of tons of recyclables from ever seeing a second life.”
“Although all sorts of items and materials hold the potential to be recycled and reused, only certain items can be effectively collected and sorted through curbside ‘single-stream’ recycling programs, like Lehi’s,” said Leonelli. There are many things that can be recycled, when a resident takes the time to do it correctly.
The following items can be recycled through Waste Management:
Metal cans: steel, tin and aluminum soda, vegetable, fruit and tuna cans. These need to be completely rinsed out. Labels may be left on.
Plastic bottles and containers labeled 1-7. Completely rinsed, discard lids in trash.
Paper: Brown paper bags, office paper, newspaper and magazines. Dry and free of food debris.
Paper cardboard, dairy and juice containers. Rinsed out
Flattened cardboard and paperboard. Dry and free of food debris.
Bottles and jars. Rinsed out.
Glass items may be recycled in the large green bin across the street from Lehi City Offices on 100 N. and 100 E. in Lehi.
The following items cannot be recycled through Waste Management curbside containers:
Plastic containers or bottles without a number label
Polystyrene foam cups and containers
Tissues, paper towels and other paper that has been in contact with food
Lehi resident, Melynda Cummings, is passionate about recycling. She became interested in recycling and reducing plastic about five years ago. “I just started seeing plastic everywhere. It’s kind of a hobby for me. It brings me a lot of joy to help out the planet,” she said.
Cummings said she thinks people have good intentions about recycling, it’s just not enough. “It’s hard because there’s not a lot of education. You just see the blue bin and I don’t think people know where to look to learn more.” She also said it can easily feel overwhelming, so people just don’t do it. “They think, ‘I can’t do it all. I’m too busy’ but if a lot of people did a little bit, it would make a big difference.” She said people don’t know where to start or they think the problem is too big. “They see these oceans full of plastic and just say, ‘I can’t’.”
“When recycling, we like to remind people to ‘Keep it simple,’” Leonelli said. “Focus on the key, recyclable items: empty metal cans, plastic bottles, clean paper and cardboard. A great place to start is with aluminum and steel food and beverage cans – like soup cans. Simply scrape them clean or give them a good swish with water to get them fairly clean and drop into the recycling cart.” An aluminum can recycled today, can be back on the shelf as a new can in just 60 days!
The biggest misconception Cummings sees is people thinking plastic bags can go in curbside containers. “I made that mistake for the first year. But they cause problems for the equipment.” She said a lot of retailers will accept plastic bags. They will accept grocery bags, bread bags, bubble wrap, clean baggies, and even those big plastic pillows from packages. “A lot can be recycled that people don’t realize. You just have to hop online and research.” She said she’s excited about Lehi City doing more education because “people aren’t informed enough” about recycling. She said many people look at the blue bins as just another trash bin. “My kids laugh at me because when we drive down the street on recycling day, I go a little nuts. You can’t believe people put tires in a curbside bin!”
Leonelli said it’s important to toss recycled items directly into a recycling cart – loose and not bagged. “When a bag full of material comes down the sorting line at our recycling center, we simply don’t know what’s inside it; so, for safety reasons, bagged materials have to be pulled off and end up in the landfill.”
The Waste Management website has made it easy to understand recycling and educating the public on how to help the environment. According to their website, “These days, business and community leaders alike are having the same discussion about how to balance their environmental goals with their budgetary ones. Mixed recycling from Waste Management provides an efficient, sustainable solution to help achieve both. Mixed recycling minimizes the need to sort materials. Acceptable paper, plastic, metal, and in some areas, glass materials, can go into a single container. It’s just that simple.”
“Waste Management remains committed to supporting sustainability, and recycling is a key component,” Leonelli said. “A good way to start recycling is to commit to recycling just one kind of item, for example, all your plastic water bottles or all aluminum soda cans. Every time you put a good recyclable item in the recycling cart instead of the trash, you make a positive impact on our environment and our future.” Lehi residents, businesses, educators, and property managers can visit the website RecycleOftenRecycleRight.com for a complete list and guide on how to get started.