MARYSVILLE – Do not put a garden hose or Christmas lights in your recycling.
Things like that are causing a “Recycling Crisis,” Robin Freedman told the City Council Monday.
Freedman, a senior manager for Waste Management, said the future of recycling is in jeopardy. People need to “get back to the basics,” city Public Works Director Kevin Nielsen said Tuesday.
During the environmental movement of the 1960s and ‘70s, people rinsed off their recyclables – “When in doubt, rinse it out.” And they made sure they only recycled items on the list.
“We need to educate people again,” Nielsen said.
Freedman said at the meeting make sure it’s empty, clean, dry and on the list.
People need to “think differently about recycling. Recycle right,” she said.
Nielsen said people have become complacent. “We used to clean out our cans,” he said, adding now people just throw it in the bin. “We don’t think about it.”
If the community doesn’t do it right, costs for recycling will continue to rise. Freedman said some cities have decided against recycling altogether.
She said the worldwide recycling market is always fluctuating. Historically, China was the major player. But in 2013 in tightened restrictions, and in 2017 tightened them even more. More recently, it has basically banned importing recyclables, she said.
So, the U.S. is looking to other smaller markets that are less developed, such as Vietnam, India, Pakistan and Chile. There is hope some U.S. markets may develop.
“It will take other markets time to mature,” Freedman said.
And while the markets now want less-dirty materials, the U.S. is getting dirtier.
“We have less than other parts of the country, but we’re still not meeting the standard” of cleanliness China wants, Freedman said of the Northwest.
Education is key. “People need to be more responsible with their recycling,” Freedman said.
They are trying to get the word out to business and residential customers on how to do it better. “Help us mitigate contamination fees” that are adding to labor costs, she said.
Freedman asked the City Council to consider increasing the recycling cost for Marysville residents 73 cents from $4.79 to $5.52 a month.
To compare, the city of SeaTac recently raised its rates $3.
Freedman said while the cost has gone up $14 a ton to process recyclables, it’s also gone down in value $15 a ton. That’s because markets are dwindling for some types of recyclables – there is no money in it. There is no longer a market for waxy milk cartons, for example.
Waste Management talks with many companies about the future of their packaging and whether or not there is a recycling market for it. She added those firms may come up with products in the future that need recycling. “If they build it we have to figure out how to recycle it,” she said.
Freedman also said Cascade will need updates “not knowing if in the future there will be a need for it.”
The list continues to change, depending on the value of the item on the recycling market. A new one is in the works.
Mayor Jon Nehring said Freedman’s request seems reasonable, but he would like to see any agreement revisited as the recycling market changes.
She assured him it would be.
Nielsen said he would take Freedman’s request to the Public Works Committee Nov. 2. Any staff recommendation would come after that, and the full City Council would vote on it.
Councilman Mark James asked what would happen if Marysville just ended its recycling program.
Nielsen said that waste would go to the landfill. But “We pay less for trash when we do recycle,” he said.
In a related matter Monday, Karen Latimer of Public Works asked the council to agree to spend $10,000 to receive a $30,000 grant from the Department of Ecology.
She said the money would be used to hire an education specialist to work with the public to reduce recycling contamination.
Latimer said the specialist would focus on working with 35-50 multi-family housing units. She said those renters are more transient and different places they move to have varied recycling rules. Those areas, along with businesses, have the most contaminated recycling, she said, that’s why they will be the focus. The education would include multi-language instructions.
Latimer said cameras are helping keep some undesirable recycling out of trucks. For example, cameras caught tires in one bin. The council voted to approve the grant request 5-1, with James the lone dissenting vote. “It’s government waste,” he said.
What to recycle
•Paper and cardboard: Newspapers; paperback books; cereal, laundry and other boxes. Flatten all boxes and remove plastic liners from food boxes. •Plastic: Bottles, milk jugs, tubs, buckets, laundry containers and cups. Empty all food and liquid. Rinse it out.
•Aluminum, tin cans, clean foil and scrap metal: pop, tuna and green bean cans. Place lids in can, crimp the can shut.
•Glass jars and bottles: Empty all food or liquid. Rinse it out.
•Empty clean recyclables out of bags and boxes and put them loose in your cart so that they can be easily sorted at the recycling center. Clean paper bags and cardboard boxes are recyclable. Just put them in your cart after you empty them. Recyclables in plastic bags may be mistaken for garbage.
•No plastic bags. (Reuse or recycle at grocery stores). They get caught in conveyor belts.
•No shredded paper. It’s too difficult to sort.
•There is no limit on clean recyclables. Put recycling that doesn’t fit in your cart in cardboard boxes or a 32-gallon can with handles marked “recycling”.
•You help save energy, reduce water pollution and consumption, preserve natural resources and create jobs.
•Recycling aluminum saves 95 percent of energy needed to produce new aluminum. The energy saved from recycling one ton of aluminum equals the amount of electricity the average home uses over 10 years
•Recycling one glass container saves enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for four hours.
•Recycling 1 ton of paper saves 17 mature trees, 7,000 gallons of water, 3 cubic yards of landfill space, 2 barrels of oil, and 4,100 kilowatt-hours of electricity – enough energy to power the average American home for five months.
•Recycling one ton of plastic milk jugs saves enough energy to light a home for a year.
•Incinerating 10,000 tons of waste creates one job; landfilling 10,000 tons of waste creates six jobs; recycling 10,000 tons of waste creates 36 jobs.
By the numbers
•It dropped in single-family housing from a five-year high of 3,707 tons to 2,575 so far this year.
•Same for multi-family, 529 tons compared with 403.
•Same for commercial, dropping from 1,377 tons to 1,010.
•Total tons recycled is 3,988 tons compared with 5,613. We are already better than 2015’s 3,889 tons however.
•Non-recyclable numbers are up to 439 tons. Three years ago it was 153 tons.
•Average pounds per single-family is 25, which is fairly consistent over the five years.