(Chelsea Update would like to thank Frank Hammer for the information in this column. If you have recycling questions or comments, please send them to [email protected].)
Below are the answers to some questions and comments sent recently.
1. A comment on repurposing plastic bags stated that sheet plastics like Visqueen should be recyclable and not placed in a landfill.
In principle, Reggie agrees. However, Western Washtenaw Recycling Authority (WWRA) can only process materials that have a buyer’s market. We are still seeking a market for this type of plastic and we’ll let you know when/if we do.
In Europe, these plastics are either converted to diesel fuel or burned in a plant designed to produce electricity. Currently, there are so such plants in this country. So Reggie recommends putting Visqueen in your trash, not in WWRA’s bins.
2. Another reader asked about a broken bicycle, which has recyclable steel and other metals. Reggie says WWRA happily accepts and recycles metal. However, large metal items, like bikes or wrought iron tables, need to be taken to the WWRA facility on 8025 Werkner Road. Our trucks are not equipped to handle them, either curbside or in the bins.
Other types of metals we love are coat hangers, electrical wire and strings of old Christmas lights. But please keep them out of the bins as they damage the sorting equipment, if mixed in with other items. Please take them directly to the Werkner Road facility and earn Reggie XOXO’s.
3. Another way to earn a Reggie hug is to collect plastic bottle caps and lids. They are recyclable plastic, but they are so small, they drop through the sorting grates and get mixed in with the glass, which ruins it for re-sale. If you want to collect these caps and lids, drop them at WWRA, and we can place them directly in with the plastics.
4. There were lots of comments and questions about Styrofoam. The recycling of any colored Styrofoam is impossible. The Dart Container Company in Okemos will purchase our Styrofoam, but only if is clean, white and dry. That means significant sorting. They won’t take colored Styrofoam, peanuts or meat trays, Polystyrene colored cups or veggie containers, or soiled take-home containers. So none of them can be recycled and should be put in the trash.
Dart buys these ONLY if they have been melted into 25-pound blocks of Polystyrene using a $30,000 machine, which WWRA does not have. Besides the cost, the machine is not automated and is labor intensive, plus, there are additional costs for labor and fuel to drive the blocks to Okemos.
Reggie hopes we can do this someday, or maybe there is someone out there who wants to donate the $30,000 machine to us. If so, let’s talk.
5. Some people report they have found other places to send their household Styrofoam. Several of those places are not happy about “outsiders” using their service. WWRA has contacted U-M and learned that the service is internal to the university. They emphatically stated they don’t even want employees bringing in Styrofoam from their homes.
Recycle Ann Arbor is run by a New York for-profit organization and, as such, they would charge WWRA for delivery of Styrofoam. It would be much more than $3 paid by an individual household, and again WWRA would also be paying for labor and fuel to transport it. Plus, a lot of the Styrofoam they take in is actually landfilled because it is soiled, colored or wet.
Reggie thinks this may be more than you ever wanted to know about Styrofoam, but there is one more thing to consider.
6. What about packing peanuts that are NOT Styrofoam? They are called bioplastics and made with thermoplastic starch, which is great for your compost pile and around your garden. But please, please, please keep these peanuts out of the city sewer system or your septic system.
Sewer and septic systems use carefully chosen bacteria to de-compose the regular stuff, and the bio-plastic peanuts can really make the bacteria sick, especially in a septic system.
Reggie says: “Keep these peanuts above ground, and they will safely dissolve.”
7. A comment was made that WWRA has been taking plastics 3, 4, 5 and 7 and our literature stills says we take them. That is true and the reason is quite simple. We hope to find a market and continue to provide the service. If we start saying no in our signs and literature and then change that message in a couple months, we are just creating confusion.
So we are asking people who care to throw these plastics out for now but we’ll take them if they come into the facility.
So, until next week—Reggie says, “Thank you very much for your comments and questions. Keep them coming. It’s great to know you care.”