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Reggie the Recycling Raccoon says: Even in a down-cycle, we can all help if we think about what goes in the bins.

Reggie the Recycling Raccoon.
Reggie the Recycling Raccoon.

(Chelsea Update would like to thank Frank Hammer and the Western Washtenaw Recycling Authority for the information in this story.)

Last week, Reggie explained some of the non-controllable factors contributing to the down-cycle in recycling.

In the category of things that can be controlled, there is the “big bin” factor. Big bins are the best way to increase participation and volume in recycling, but they unfortunately have stimulated huge increases in non-recyclable items such as trash as well.

Reggie reports that WWRA, like recycling centers all over the country, is really struggling with this problem. He’s happy to report that single-stream recycling, using the big bins, has increased participation by 100 percent. About 80 percent of Chelsea city households now participate, which is more than double the national average. Also a smaller, but still significant, number of township households participate, too, through the drop-off recycling stations.

However, the newbies seem less careful about trash. Reggie finds that the trash in curbside bins is up, but the real problem is at the recycling stations. In fact, there are weeks when more trash is left there than recyclables.

Workers need to transport this trash and sort it out from the recyclables, which costs a lot of time and money. When even small amounts of trash inevitably get mixed in to the recycle products, it contaminates the product and lowers the sale price. Then there is more cost when WWRA pays “somebody’s” landfill fee to dispose of the trash. There are lots of careful Reggie Recycling Rangers out there, and Reggie is happy with you every week. But, he also thinks it just isn’t fair that you have to pay for “someone else’s” trash.

The workers have begun pulling some trash from the curbside bins. You may notice, if you drive through Chelsea on recycling day, some bins with a piece of styrofoam or plastic bags hanging out at the lid. Those are recyclers who are still working on their Reggie Recycling Ranger badge. The workers will also leave a friendly note, to help them remember to “trash it” the next time.

At the recycling stations, there are large signs to help you remember. WWRA is still willing to pay a $500 reward for any confirmable (e.g., take a picture) reports of trash dumping at the sites. The sheriff will track these lawbreakers down and charge them with illegal dumping. If substantiated, the dumper will incur a $1,000 fine.

Reggie thinks people who do this should have to wear a scarlet “R,” too. Seems like a lot of trouble for sneaking in to leave that old mattress or bag of diapers.

Reggie says, “Make me proud.” Take that trash to the landfill and pay the fee, so the rest of us don’t have to.

Reggie also hopes you will download the free graphic that shows what goes into recycling, here.

Reggie’s Royal Recycling Review:
Smash “Trash Urge, “ by putting only recyclables in the bins.

Remember Reggie’s Recycling Rule:
“When in doubt-leave it out.”

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