MRF operators and state officials are working to persuade residents in Washington state to keep plastic film out of the curbside stream.
The Feb. 27 Washington State Recycling Association (WSRA) Washington Recycles Every Day (WRED) webinar, “Wrapped Up in Plastic Film,” covered several aspects of plastic film recycling and had just under 90 people attending.
Logan Harvey, Recology King County’s waste zero manager, laid out the problems film in curbside bins cause for materials recovery facilities (MRFs). He said the company’s MRF, which processes between 300 and 400 tons of material daily from 11 communities in King County, has to dedicate several hours each day to removing film from its machines or risk damage.
Bagged recyclables in particular slow down the process, he said, and even though there are usually around eight employees on the initial sort line, it’s difficult for them to rip open bags of material.
“They’ll try to dump as much of that material out on the tipping floor to get separated as they can, but the reality is that bags get caught,” Harvey said, and then some of the materials get sent to landfill.
Dan Weston, materials management and recycling policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Ecology, said the state will launch a “recycle right” campaign in April focused on not bagging recyclables.
An earlier survey found 20% of respondents put their recyclables in a plastic bag before putting them in the bin.
Of that number, 14% said they bagged the material because they thought the bags were also recyclable and 14% thought it helped MRFs. Another 15% said they bagged recyclables to keep them separate from trash, 15% said it’s cleaner and 13% said it controls odor.
About 13% of respondents said bagging recyclables is what they were taught to do and the remaining 16% said it was easier to carry bagged items to the recycling bin.
Weston said message testing showed that it’s most important for people to know why bagged items are problematic for MRFs.
A version of this story appeared in Plastics Recycling Update on March 6.
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