As environmental groups, governments and the plastics industry work to ramp up more consumer recycling, they face a common problem: People tossing items in curbside recycling bins that simply can't be easily recycled.
Dirty containers still filled with food, plastic bags and soiled pizza boxes can contaminate an entire load of otherwise recyclable items. While local groups and recyclers send out reminders and tips of the recycling rules, someone still will "wishcycle" their bags or flashlight or toaster or some other item. I frequently remove plastic bags from our community recycling bin that show up again and again. (That photo up at the top? Took that yesterday afternoon after fishing bags out of the curbside bin.)
That's why I was intrigued to hear from a friend that her small village does spot checks of residential recycling bins. If they open it and see something like bags or greasy food containers, they mark it with a frowning emoji sticker and the recycling truck passes it by.
It's an instant reminder, she said, of what can and cannot be recycled and residents quickly learn the rules.
She happens to live in a very small town, where it's easier to wrap your proverbial arms around the problems of wishcycling. With rising demand for recycled plastics in packaging, however, getting a clean recycling stream into materials recovery facilities is going to be increasingly important.
The American Chemistry Council is embracing the need for higher recycled content, issuing a statement July 13 that backs the idea of a mandated 30 percent recycled content in packaging. Since less than 10 percent of plastics currently is recycled, improving recycled content at the local level is only going to get more important. Expect to more about solutions to improving the recycling stream going forward.