ReCommunity is not a big fan of old garden hoses. And the recycling company is not too fond of plastic grocery bags, dirty diapers and needles that can't be handled at its materials recovery facilities.
The influx of all sorts of unacceptable items at the company's MRFs has gotten to the point that the Charlotte, N.C.-based firm is trying to bring added attention to the problem.
And ReCommunity is warning that there's a higher cost of handling all of this unwanted material — a cost that could end up hitting customers in the pocketbook.
Not every MRF is designed the same, and some are able to take certain materials that others cannot based on the sorting equipment involved. That means some can take mixed plastics but others can't, for example.
But no MRF, ReCommunity's or not, is equipped to handle certain materials that are finding their way into single-stream recycling containers collected at the curbside.
Single-stream recycling has allowed communities around the country to boost their recycling rates by allowing residents to easily put all of their recyclables into one container. It's the job of companies like ReCommunity to then sort it all out.
Things work great when residents pay attention to what's allowed in their particular bin — again that varies from community to community. But costs start rising when loads contain prohibited materials.
So ReCommunity is out what with it calls an “inbound quality alert” in an attempt to grab people's attention about the problem.
“So what we've seen is an overall increase in, I call them ‘non-conforming materials,' that were never intended to go into any single-stream material program such as food waste or yard waste or hoses or medical waste,” said Jeff Fielkow, chief sales and marketing officer for ReCommunity.
“Some of these issues have been problematic in bits and pieces in the past but they're emerging across a broader spectrum,” he said. “It's absolutely been a slow build over time.”
In other words, ReCommunity is seeing the problem in many of the 33 facilities in 14 states where the company operates. About 7 percent of the company's volume is plastics.
“It's not one particular event that‘s driving this. It's a culmination that's been building and just needs to come to the forefront. I think people want to do the right thing in putting their recyclables in the bin. It's a lack of great education, not keeping pace with how the programs have changed,” he said.
Education is the cornerstone to any successful recycling program. But as municipal budgets have shrunk over the years, it is not uncommon to see a cutback on spending in that area.
“I think the opportunity to reeducate isn't always taken advantage of as it needs to be,” he said.
Rumpke Consolidated Companies Inc. is a regional solid waste and recycling company based in suburban Cincinnati that also believes that education is a key to preventing contamination.
Items such as plastic bags, buckets and pool liners continue to remain a problem at Rumpke's MRFs, spokesman Jonathan Kissell said.