ARTICLE: Recycling questions answered by Waste Management expert – excerpt from the Wilmington Star News – June 3, 2010

This article is great!

Members of Island Women, an organization based at Pleasure Island, traveled to Raleigh to see where the island's recycling goes. The women toured Waste Management's facility, led by Tim Hunter, the plant manager. The women, joined by a StarNews reporter, came with plenty of recycling questions. Here are some of the most common questions along with Hunter's answers.

Q. Can I leave the lid on a plastic bottle and put it in the recycling?
A. Yes. When the bottles are washed, the caps float off, Hunter said.

Q. Is it OK to leave my recycling in a plastic bag?
A. No. The plastic bags contaminate the plastic recycling stream. Hunter said those bags can be recycled by returning them to the grocery store. Large stores usually have their own plastic bag recycling drops.

Q. Can I recycle a can with a cigarette butt or a beer bottle with a lime in the bottom?
A. Yes. Those materials are removed when the materials are washed.

Q. Can I recycle every type of paper?
A. Yes. If you can tear it, they can recycle it

Q. If a glass container breaks, can it still be recycled?
A. Yes. In fact, most of the unbroken bottles break during the recycling process.

Q. Where does the recycling end up?
A. Waste Management uses sorting machines and a crew to separate the materials. Paper and cardboard are compressed into bales and shipped to paper mills. Aluminum and steel cans are also put in bales. Glass is sent to a separate facility where it is processed and sold back to glass manufacturers. Plastic is ground up and sent to processors that will make it into pellets that could end up as CD cases, hangers, bottles or carpets.

Q. Does every piece of plastic I put in my recycling bin really get recycled?
A. No. Waste Management, and many municipalities, accepts plastics numbered one through seven. Although these plastics are technically recyclable, Hunter says there must also be someone willing to buy the materials.

For example, Waste Management does not currently have buyers for plastics numbered three (PVC pipes), six (egg cartons) or seven (some electronic casings). Plastics with no buyers are separated and taken to a landfill.

Hunter said the company doesn't expect people to remember all these numbers and what they mean. He said if you take the guesswork out of it and tell people to recycle anything that is plastic, the total recycling of good materials increases by 20 percent.

“When you tell the general population, ‘If you've got a piece of plastic, recycle it,' it works,” he said.

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