Recycling: Is It Really That Hard?

By: Ruby McCartney

Someone told me recently, while dropping off their recycling, that recycling shouldn’t be this hard. As manager of Athens-Limestone Recycling Center (ALRC). I have said the same thing for years. However, I think the two of us have two different theories on this.

This person (and he was not the first) was upset that he was asked to empty his recycling from the bags into the appropriate bins. He wanted to just throw in his bag and let someone else empty it for him. He also didn’t think that he should have to sort his glass by colors. Again, he just wanted to place his bags into the bins and let someone else do this for him.

I understand that at our community collection centers (county trailers), things are mixed together simply because there aren’t enough compartments in the trailers. However, when those items are brought back to the recycling center, they have to be emptied and sorted, which requires a sorter. Before Covid-19, there were usually a total of 32 trailers in use for the public across the county, and all of these had to be serviced at least once a week.

Requirements at the Recycling Center haven’t really changed, as we are now enforcing what we have asked and expected from our residents for years. It is sad that someone has to constantly monitor the bins to make sure that residents are using them correctly. As soon as we turn our backs, people will toss something into the bins that they know is not supposed to be in there.

We have slowly been able to accept more items for recycling over the last few weeks, and this has placed an additional strain on the already short staff at the recycling center. Currently, we are accepting flattened cardboard, office paper, magazines, junk mail, books, newspaper, aluminum, steel, glass bottles and glass jars (sorted by colors), motor oil, cooking oil, and electronics.

I want to stress that we are NOT accepting any plastic at this time. Until we are able to get our extra labor force back, we simply cannot handle the volume of plastic. Plastic requires so much hands-on sorting, and we have always sorted a great deal of plastic. It takes three sorters working 40 hours a week to keep up with the normal volume of plastics sorted and baled at ALRC. When we do begin accepting plastics again, we will enforce the guidelines that have always been in place, but ignored. Acceptable plastics are CONTAINER plastics only and include the following: #1 (water and soda bottles, etc.), #2 (laundry detergent bottles, milk jugs, shampoo bottles, etc.), and #5 (margarine containers, Cool Whip containers, some yogurt containers, etc.). The key word is CONTAINER plastics. There is a recycling symbol on the bottom of most plastic containers with a number inside the symbol. If the number is not a 1, 2, or 5, please do not include it in your recycling, as it will be thrown into the trash.

We do NOT accept the following for recycling at our facility: kiddie pools, pool liners, plastic lawn furniture, plastic toys, etc. Some of those items may have a #2 or #5 on them, but they are NOT recyclable at our facility. ONLY CONTAINERS will be recycled. Please dispose of these items properly, as we pay over $7,000 a year to dispose of trash and garbage that residents leave at our facility or in our trailers “wish-cycling.”

Recycling doesn’t have to be hard on anyone as long as everyone does their part. To those of you that have recycled correctly and have been appreciative of the services offered, we say a HUGE “THANK YOU!” You are the people that keep us coming into work day after day.

Nothing is close to normal anywhere right now, so we ask for your patience and understanding. We look forward to resuming services for all recyclables again as soon as possible. Drop-off hours are 5:30 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. Monday – Friday.
Thank you for recycling!
By: Ruby McCartney
Plant Manager Athens-Limestone Recycling Center