The World of Recycling has Changed and Here’s What You Need to Know About It

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Tons of recyclables are being rejected, and sent to a landfill instead. This is an updated guide on what to recycle and what to toss out, in light of tightening industry standards.

To recycle or not recycle – that is the question.

And, it’s a loaded question. It’s not as easy as you think and some of the things people are throwing in their blue bins are contributing to tons of recyclables being rejected, and sent to a landfill instead.

We all want to do our part – and Recycling & Disposable Solutions (RDS) is here to help.

Here’s what you need to know:

  •     As of March 1, the recycling game has changed.
  •     China receives most of the U.S.’s recyclables and there is a new threshold on acceptable limits of contaminants.
  •     Limits were at 3 to 7 percent and are now 0.5 percent.

“Even at 1 percent, it would be almost impossible to meet that standard,” said Joe Benedetto, president of RDS, a Roanoke recycling company. “This means there literally could be tons of recyclables returned to the U.S. with no options other than being put in a landfill.”

According to the recycling institute, the U.S. exported more than 21.5 million tons of recovered paper and fiber, valued at more than $3.1 billion last year. More than half of the total exported – about 14 million tons – went to China, according to the Washington-based American Forest and Paper Association, a trade group.

China then uses the recyclables to make the cardboard boxes that package computers, televisions and appliances, many of which, are shipped back to the U.S.

Enter project “Green Fence,” a Chinese program launched to clamp down on recyclable contamination. The new threshold means if a cargo container has anything out of order – such as a pizza box with food in it, even if it is some cheese stuck to the lid – the entire container would be returned to the U.S. and the recycling facility’s expense. This is a massive fee to the company, possibly five or six times what it cost to send.

Where does that leave us?

Benedetto, a third-generation member of the recycling industry, offers some quick tips on making sure your recycling materials pass muster.

FOR THE RECYCLE BIN:
Newspapers
Aluminum Beverage Cans
Cardboard
Glass Bottles
Junk Mail
Cereal Boxes
Plastic Bottles, Containers and Jars (#’s 1&2 only)
Steel & Tin cans
Glass Jars    

TOSS IT IN THE GARBAGE:
Plastic Bags
Food Waste
Electronics
Styrofoam
Bubble wrap
Wood
Yard clippings
Paint cans
Plastic & Metal Toys
Aluminum Foil
Cat Food Cans
Shredded Paper

ABOUT RDS:
Recycling & Disposal Solutions (RDS) President, Benedetto is a 35-year veteran of the paper industry, having worked in or around recycling facilities all of his life. His experiences took him all over the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America and Europe. As the president of RDS, he says our goal is to design a custom solution to help customers get the most out of their waste management while being environmentally responsible. RDS serves industrial, commercial, retail or wholesale businesses as well as the private sector or municipalities. RDS-Virginia creates specific programs for each client, inside a building or out, install needed equipment, then implement and monitor each individual plan. Visit us at http://www.RDS-Virginia.com.

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Shannon Kane
EWR Management
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