Big little changes are here: Recycling gets simplified in JeffCo | Local 20/20

Tracy Grisman
Posted 6/24/22

Gone are the days when a dude with a cart yowls, “Rags, Ashes, Glass!” while passing by dwellings at the crack of dawn. 

Now, it’s as if we need a doctorate’s degree …

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Big little changes are here: Recycling gets simplified in JeffCo | Local 20/20

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Gone are the days when a dude with a cart yowls, “Rags, Ashes, Glass!” while passing by dwellings at the crack of dawn. 

Now, it’s as if we need a doctorate’s degree in organic chemistry to know which plastics to toss in the TAP bin (tin, aluminum, and plastic) before hauling to the curb. Do you get confused about what plastics can be recycled? You are not alone.  After doing a survey at the Jefferson County Transfer Station drop-off center and monitoring curbside bins last year, Local 20/20’s Beyond Waste volunteer group determined that even the most informed recyclers were confused about which plastics to recycle.

Well, Jefferson County Solid Waste just made our lives less complicated! 

Starting now, as described in the new flyer mailed to us in our garbage and PUD bills, (on the Jefferson County Solid Waste website) acceptable plastics to be recycled are BOTTLES and JUGS only. 

Why? The call to whittle the list down to bottles and jugs is a strategy to reduce the contamination rate, hope for less “wish cycling” and yield a quality marketable product, while also making sure that the materials are handled responsibly in domestic markets where worker and environmental protections are met.  

Recycling right is very important, but it is also important to understand it’s the last effort in preventing garbage. Consider refuse, reduce, reuse, rot. And don’t forget about restore, repair, reinvent, reevaluate, rethink!  

In the grand scheme of things, recyclable plastics make up a small percentage of all our discards; less than 5 percent of our local recycling by weight. 

The average American produces seven pounds of trash per day minus two pounds of recyclables. With a population of 330 million people, that means 1,650 million pounds of garbage per day is headed for the landfills.

The plastic industry created the recycling system in response to the growing awareness that plastics were becoming an environmental problem of epic proportions. It doesn’t decompose, has ill health effects on our bodies and pollutes the air, land and sea as evidenced by the Pacific Garbage Patch, (not Cabbage Patch Kid) a gyre the size of Texas (the largest of seven) said to be like a rotating quagmire of weird soup in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. 

Many amazing things are made from plastics, but as a culture of consumption we have not been able to quell the over-production of single-use plastic. Today, half the plastic produced is designed for single use. 

Will we, as a species of 70,000 years since the Cognitive Revolution be able to change a habit we have only known for eight decades? Some countries put the responsibility back on the manufacturer, some have banned single-use plastics altogether, Port Townsend passed a plastic straw ban and a plastic bag ban.  

How will we reuse our yogurt tubs? Will we opt to not buy the mixed greens from those gnarly plastics bins?  

Equity is also an issue. Unfortunately, some people do not have the time, money, or access to healthy produce or items that are not wrapped in plastic, so when one suggests vote with your wallet, it might not be as easy as it sounds.  

Locally, one can check out repair events, download the “Move On” document here (l2020.org/beyond-waste), attend a food-composting workshop, participate in “Buy Nothing,” shop at Waste Not Want, join the trash task force, check out the Styrocyclers, and of course, now that you won’t be confused, recycle your plastic BOTTLES  and JUGS only.  

Tracy Grisman is an active member of the Beyond Waste Action Group, and serves on the Local 20/20 Council and the Solid Waste Advisory Committee.

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