In letter to village residents: Voorheesville enacts new recycling guidelines

The Enterprise — Chris Duncan

Recycle this: Recently, to keep costs down and clean recyclables out of landfills, the village of Voorheesville sent to residents new guidelines that, it hopes, will keep more contaminated items out of recycling bins.

VOORHEESVILLE — As the cost of recycling has exploded — in the Capital Region, it increased by 1200 percent at one point this year — the area’s villages, towns, and cities have had to find ways to keep their costs under control.

This month, the village of Voorheesville, in a letter to residents, set forth new recycling guidelines and asked that they be followed immediately.

No contaminants are to be placed in recycling containers, the letter says. “It is time to get back to recycling basics by putting only clean acceptable items into the recycling containers. If non-acceptable items are placed in the recycling container the recyclables are then contaminated and will be landfilled.”  

A good rule of thumb, the letter states, is: “When in doubt throw it out!”

“It is a benefit to the village and our budget to work together to limit ourselves to recycling only the items that will truly be recycled. Since non-recyclable items are extracted and trucked to the landfill, the village is paying MORE MONEY to have these items disposed of through the recycling program than if they had been picked up as garbage,” the Voorheesville letter asserts.

Until recently, municipalities spent little to nothing on recycling programs, and, in some cases, they made money. Commodity prices for recyclables had been sky high for a very long time — as China, since 1979, doubled the size of its economy every eight years — and recycling haulers and processors were giving municipalities sweetheart deals to keep open their access to the lucrative materials.

In May, the town of New Scotland, which provides curbside pick-up for residents, had to amend its contract with its waste hauler when the cost of disposing of recyclables went from $10 per ton to $40 per ton. In August, Robert Wright, of Wright Disposal, the town’s hauler, was before the town board again, asking for an amended contract because it now cost $80 per ton to dispose of recyclables. Wright was asking for an additional $40 per ton to offset costs. The board has yet to take any action on his request.

In the village, however, Voorheesville pays Wright Disposal $80 per ton to pick up and dispose of its residents’ recycling.

Across the country, prices have skyrocketed for disposing of recyclables and, in some cases, municipalities have started burning their recyclables or putting them in landfills.

The recycling world was thrown into chaos last year when China announced that it would no longer take in the rest of the planet’s refuse since it was now producing enough of its own. China had tightened restrictions on recyclables earlier since too much of it had been contaminated.

Since 1980, China has been the world’s largest importer of recycled paper and plastics. For decades, it has been the world’s leading importer of scrap and waste, taking in as much as half of the planet’s refuse.

On Jan. 1, China began enforcing its National Sword Policy, which banned 24 types of solid waste, including certain plastics and mixed papers, as well as setting tougher standards for the contamination levels of recyclables it will accept. In April, the country announced a ban on an additional 32 products, among them: scrap metal, chemical waste, and ethylene polymer waste.

For Voorheesville residents, the list of acceptable recyclables includes:

— Plastic: Only plastics with the number 1, 2, or, 3 (see picture) can be recycled. There are seven numbered plastic;

Plastic Number 1 is made of polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, and is found in plastic bottles for water or soda.

Plastic Number 2 is made of high-density polyethylene, or HDPE, and can be found in most milk jugs and in bottles of detergent, motor oil, or juice.

Most plastic bags are made of plastic Number 2, and the village says that the bags should be reused, thrown in the trash, or returned to stores as part their retail recycling program.

The village says the following plastic items can be returned to stores: plastic retail bags with string ties; plastic bags that have had their rigid plastic handles removed; newspaper bags; dry-cleaning bags; produce, bread, cereal, and frozen food bags — all residual food is to be removed; plastic packaging from paper products, for example, paper towels; shrink wrap, and zipper-type plastic bags with the closing mechanism removed.

“DO NOT PLACE these items in the curbside recycling bins,” the village stresses.

Plastic Number 3 is made of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, and used to make food wrap, bottles for cooking oil, shower curtains, and blister packaging, which is pre-formed plastic packaging; for example, the hard plastic packing that razors come in;

— Glass: Any color glass bottle or container, without a lid, can be recycled;

— Cans: Clean aluminum, tin, steel, pie plates, trays, and foil are recyclable; however, if the can contains any residual food, throw it out;

— Cardboard: Cereal, pasta, shipping, and corrugated boxes are recyclable but, packing materials or pizza boxes go in the trash; and

— Paper: Newspapers, junk mail, envelopes, catalogs, soft-cover books, telephone books, brown bags, magazines and inserts, and white and colored paper can be recycled.

Voorheesville has placed paper-recycling bins throughout the village at these locations: the firehouse, at 12 Altamont Rd.; Saint Matthew’s Church, at 25 Mountainview St.; First United Methodist Church of Voorheesville, at 68 Maple Ave.; and at New Scotland Town Hall, 2029 New Scotland Road.

“These new paper bins are the preferred method for paper disposal,” the letter to village residents says.

The program is currently free to Voorheesville residents. And the more paper that is recycled in these bins located throughout the village, the better chance that the program will remain free, which “will significantly reduce the weight of our waste being processed at the recycling plant, therefore reducing the village’s monthly bills.”

Items that cannot be recycled include:

— Windows, glass, mirrors, dishes, Pyrex, ceramics, light bulbs, and fluorescent bulbs;

— Foam packaging, Styrofoam, plastic bags, plastic wrap, and K cups, designed to brew a single cup of a hot beverage;

— Otherwise acceptable recyclables that contain food waste, paint, or oils;

— Large steel items, car parts, and small appliances;

— Hazardous materials, including poisons, batteries;

— Trash, diapers, and clothing.

Discarded clothing and textiles are another source of added weight to the trash and recycling streams, the village says, and asks residents to instead drop discarded textiles in the clothing-recycling bin at the Voorheesville firehouse. The village receives a small stipend based on the weight of clothing recovered, the letter says;  

— Yard waste: Leaves, grass, sod, and branches are picked up by the village.

“Yard waste should NOT be placed in the trash bins,” the letter emphasizes, and asks that residents use lawn and leaf bags for leaves, twigs, grass clippings, sod, weeds, and bedding plants.

The letter also points out that Voorheesville Village Hall now has recycling bins for personal-care and beauty products such as lipstick cases, shampoo and conditioner bottles, lotion bottles, and face soap tubes and dispensers.

Each week, the Voorheesville letter says, food waste makes up a significant portion of a family’s trash, and asks residents to consider backyard composting, noting that pamphlets on backyard composting are available at village hall and through the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Albany County.

According to the most recent data available from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, in 2015, the United States generated 262 million tons of municipal solid waste: approximately 68 million tons were recycled and 23 million tons were composted; 33 million tons were used to create energy, most likely incinerated; and 137 million tons were sent to landfills.

Of the 137 million tons of municipal solid waste sent to America’s landfills, about 55 percent were recyclables, according to the World Bank.  

Every year, according to the World Bank, the world generates 2 billion tons of municipal solid waste; by 2050, it estimates that it will be 3.4 billion tons.

 

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