Curbside Recycling Dos And Don’ts: A Guide To Being A Better Recycler
In recent months, residents have taken to social media to express their confusion regarding what is and what is not acceptable for curbside pickup recycling in Newtown.
If you have ever wondered if an item you have is recyclable or if you have ever had an item left behind, here is some insight on how to recycle properly.
How To Start
Not all towns offer the option of curbside pickup for mixed recycling to their residents.
According to Public Works Administrator Arlene Miles, Newtown began offering the convenient service 30 years ago after a town ordinance was issued.
“Recycling pickup is part of the tax base, and every household is included in the pickup,” Miles said.
The service allows residents to receive designated recycling bins that they can put out at the curb for pickup. The bins must be visible from either direction of the roadway to allow easy access for the trucks picking up the recyclables.
“Curbside recycling is picked up by vendors contracted by the town,” Miles said.
If the pickup day falls on a holiday, it typically will be picked up the following day, depending on the vendor and the resident’s address.
For those who may be new to town or are ready to start recycling in their household, visit newtown-ct.gov/public-works and select “Find your recycling pickup day” on the left-hand side to search your street and find the pickup day.
The service of curbside pickup works in conjunction with residents being able to use the recycling center at the transfer station, 4 Ethan Allen Road, free of charge.
“No permit is needed, only proof of residence,” Miles assured.
How Recycling Works Locally
When the recycling leaves your curb or the transfer station, it is soon overseen by the Housatonic Resource Recovery Authority (HRRA).
Jennifer Heaton-Jones, executive director of HRRA, explained, “We are the regional, governmental, waste, and recycling authority for 12 municipalities in western Connecticut. Our role is to assist member municipalities in securing disposal for municipal solid waste (MSW), recycling (known as single stream or mixed recycling), and household hazardous waste.”
HRRA does not physically take the material, but it secures the contracts with the vendors on the town’s behalf.
“The recyclables collected at the Newtown [transfer station] are sent to the Oak Ridge transfer station, located in Danbury, and are then transported to Shelton to the material recovery facility,” Heaton-Jones said. “The HRRA holds the contract for the disposal of the material, and it is the town who is responsible for getting the material to Oak Ridge. The town currently uses Stone Construction.”
For the best chance of your items getting recycled, HRRA requests that all items be empty, rinsed, clean, and open.
To be qualified as “clean,” the items should be rinsed out to the point that the food is no longer visible.
“There are two reasons for this,” Heaton-Jones said. “One is to prevent [attracting] vectors (rats and other large animals) from the material, and also to help with the sorting process. Plastics are sorted by optics. If the peanut butter jar still has peanut butter in it, the optical scanner may not identify the container as the proper polymer and mistake it for something else.”
Additionally, problems can arise when dirty, bagged, or unacceptable material is mixed with acceptable recyclables.
Heaton-Jones reports, “Fifteen to 20% of our recycling stream is what we call contaminated. It’s trash. Some things do harm the equipment or create safety hazardous for workers, like plastic film. It adds cost to the disposal. This happens every day.”
Plastic film and plastic bags in particular attribute to the materials recovery facility shutting down every three to four hours so workers can manually cut it out. At that point, the material is now unable to be recycled elsewhere.
As for items that may otherwise have a recyclable container but a hazardous liquid was or still is inside of it, that container is no longer eligible to be recycled and would be disposed of as trash. For items such as these, Newtown offers Household Hazardous Waste Disposal Day for its residents, which will take place on May 8 this year.
Cheat Sheet To Recycling
According to Heaton-Jones, “The town of Newtown, under the HRRA, uses the state of Connecticut’s ‘What’s In. What’s Out’ universal recycling guide.”
The guide is available on the Public Works website, the HRRA home page, and directly at recyclect.com.
“All items that are acceptable under the ‘What’s In. What’s Out’ universal guide are 100% recycled,” Miles said. “Not everything is recyclable. Any item in the ‘out’ category is deemed trash and not recycled.”
For example, paper items such as cardboard, boxboard, food and beverage cartons, junk mail, magazine and newspaper inserts, newsprint, office paper, and pizza boxes are recyclable. However, gift wrap, gift bags, ice cream containers, paper cups, take-out food containers, and tissue paper are not recyclable.
Shredded paper cannot be recycled unless is done in designated location where it is separate from other types of paper.
For glass, beverage bottles and jars and food bottles and jars are accepted for recycling; ceramic mugs and plates or drinking glasses are not.
For metal, food grade aerosol containers, aluminum foil, cans, bottles, foil containers, and metal lids from cans and bottles can be recycled.
What cannot be recycled are aerosol containers such as deodorizers, cleaners, and pesticides; foil tops from yogurt containers; paint cans; pots and pans; small pieces of scrap metal; and spiral wound containers.
Plastic bottles (with or without the caps attached); plastic containers, tubs, and lids; and plastic one-use cups (without the lids or straws) are acceptable for recycling.
Plastics not able to be recycled are loose bottle caps; plastic plates, bowls, and utensils; prescription bottles; single-use coffee containers; Styrofoam cups, containers, and packaging peanuts; and water filters.
Plastic bags and plastic wrap can be recycled separately by bringing them back to supermarkets or to a recycling center. They should never go in curbside recycling.
Residents must be aware that items taken by curbside pickup can differ from items that can be accepted at the recycling center.
Items such as electronics, tires, food scraps, and natural wood debris do not get taken with curbside pickup, but there are specific sections at the transfer station for them.
While different kinds of acceptable recyclables can be intermingled for curbside recycling and later sorted, HRRA is spearheading a glass collection pilot program to have glass be an exception.
HRRA is asking residents to separate their glass items from the mixed stream (curbside) recycling and take glass items directly to the transfer station’s recycling center instead.
Those looking for a comprehensive list of different items and how they can be recycled in Newtown can visit hrra.org/information-newtown. The HRRA also has a search widget on its home page labeled “Can I Recycle It?” where people can type in the item and learn how to property recycle or dispose of it.
For questions about curbside or transfer station recycling, call Newtown Public Works at 203-270-4300. For more information about HRRA, e-mail email@example.com or call 203-775-4539.