Plastic packaging materials (and some other things) really jam up the recycling machines.
Here’s some good news: Recycling volumes are up during the pandemic, both in the city curbside recycling program and at the county drop-off beside Westover City Hall. It’s no surprise—most of us are shopping online more and generating more boxes than ever.
But all those extra packing materials we’re also generating? Even if they have recycling symbols on them, they’re a problem for our recycling service.
“Plastic bags and packaging, those things go through the huge gears that sort the recycling, and anything that’s long or stretchy jams the gears,” says City of Morgantown Recycling Manager Vanessa Reaves. “The workers have to stop the machine, manually get in there, and take out the tanglers. It’s a risk to them, and it slows down the sorting process.”
The key is to keep those things separate: recycle the cardboard and dispose of the plastic bags, packing materials, and styrofoam appropriately.
So keep doing what you’re doing—just refine it a little in these ways:
No plastic bags, air pillow packaging, bubble wrap, padded envelopes, or styrofoam Even items on this list that have recycling symbols on them can’t be accepted by our recycler. If we consistently include those items, Republic Services can respond with increased tipping fees, raising the cost of our service.
Collapse your cardboard boxes at the seams It’s an extra moment on each person’s part that saves a lot at the back end. Boxes flattened properly, rather than crushed by stepping on them, take up the least space, and that minimizes the cost of transport. Also, if you’re dropping your cardboard off in Westover, that cardboard is hauled and sold to a paper mill by the Native American Community Center, becoming a donation to its food pantry in Wadestown—a tidy drop-off really helps their operation.
Following the recycling rules saves the community money by preventing increases in tipping fees to cover the costs of bad habits and by saving space in our landfill. And failing to follow the rules ultimately results in a program that doesn’t work and will have to be shut down, says Monongalia County Commissioner Tom Bloom, who has a long history of involvement in the recycling program. “We’re still trying to run it but, the bottom line is, the program will only work if the citizens follow the guidelines.”
To request a free copy of the Monongalia County Solid Waste Authority’s wall calendar listing information and dates for handling hard-to-recycle and hard-to-dispose-of items, stop by the Morgantown Public Library or email firstname.lastname@example.org.