To be an effective recycler, it is arguably more important to know what cannot be recycled than what can be. “Wish-cycling” might feel better than sending things to the landfill, but it causes a lot of problems and can derail the whole recycling system.
In preparation for the cardboard bins to be replaced with a compacter and baler next week, I recently volunteered at the Hailey Park and Ride. Our task was to inform/remind unsuspecting visitors to the lot of the local dos and don’ts of cardboard recycling. Corrugated cardboard is a very valuable material collected for recycling because it is easy to turn back into corrugated cardboard and thus there are lots of buyers out there. The buyers evaluate the “purity” of the bales and pay top dollar for very low contamination, but the returns quickly diminish if the bales are rife with other miscellaneous materials.
Since the city uses the funds earned to pay for our other recycling programs, it is in all our best interest to make sure that ONLY corrugated cardboard goes into the bins. Corrugated cardboard has two outer layers with a wavy layer in the middle. Cereal, cracker, and soda boxes, egg cartons and many other things are made of a different kind of cardboard called pasteboard and it must be sent to the landfill as there is no local buyer willing to recycle it.
The other main issue at the corrugated cardboard drop-off sites is that the majority of people aren’t flattening their boxes. This causes the bins to overflow long before they have reached their capacity, and the bulky boxes often harbor forgotten (or, more likely, ignored) contaminants like styrofoam and other packing materials.
Effective recycling takes attention and effort, so if you truly care about recycling, please take the time to do it right. Our community has a lot to gain if everyone does their part to ensure that nothing but flattened corrugated cardboard goes in all the cardboard recycling bins valley wide.