Recycling Know No’s ~ Part One: Don’t Bag Recyclables!

By Gene Kalb

Recycling is good.  It helps the environment, helps the town, and makes you feel you’re doing your part.  That being said, not all things are easy to recycle, no matter what you may think.  Putting your Styrofoam coffee cup in the bin might feel right, but is actually detrimental and costly to us in Bedford.  There are other things that fall into the category of “should” be recycled, but without understanding what happens “downstream,” your wishful thinking could end up causing more trouble.  You may not have been aware that all recycled material gets sorted, and one of the most cost-effective sorts happens at your bin. Understanding what happens after your recycling bucket has been collected can help make that downstream work easier.  Accordingly, we are embarking on a new series that hopefully will answer the “whys “ and “whats” of recycling here in Bedford.

The Bedford Citizen has teamed up with Ed McGrath from the Bedford Department of Public Works in a new segment called “Know-Nos of recycling” to explain what happens once you put something in the recycle bin. We’ll also explain why it’s so important to only put the correct stuff in your recycle bins.  If you have questions, please send them along. 

Question #1 ~ We see the signs ~ DON’T BAG Recyclables

Why?  What’s the big deal? It makes it easier to keep from blowing away in the wind, and isn’t the plastic bag recyclable anyway?

We turn to Ed McGrath,  Recycling Coordinator, for the answer:

Question #2 ~ Why is important NOT to bag recyclables?

We’re starting this series with a big one. Let me begin by saying that if you put your recycling out in plastic bags, you’ve wasted your time and effort.

When the bag of recyclables gets to the sorting facility in Billerica, the bag is pulled out of the pile and thrown in the trash. All those containers you faithfully rinsed and emptied never make it to the start of the sorting process and on to a company that can use the material to make new products.

The sorting facility (or Material Recovering Facility or MRF) does not have time to open all the plastic bags. Further, the MRF isn’t sure what it will find when it opens the bag so it just removes all the bagged material and throws it in the trash.

Bagging your recyclables also increases the amount of residuals or trash and negatively affects the recycling processing fee Bedford pays. Bedford’s residual rate is around 10 percent.

It’s fine to collect your recyclables in a plastic bag in your home. But when you put out your recycling on Monday, empty the bag in the bin. You’ll make your efforts worthwhile and you can reuse the bag for trash or next week’s recycling.  Just to be clear, it doesn’t make a difference whether the bags are clear, black, or pink, bags are not allowed.

Next Post:  Styrofoam
We get a ton of it, can it be recycled?  It sure seems like it should be.


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