Report from a Recycling Block Captain

by M. Isaacson

This report is for those of you who are using your Blue Carts. We'll talk about those empty carts another time – this report's topic is the materials you're putting in the carts. Are you recycling everything you could be, or perhaps trying to recycle things that belong in the garbage?

A lot of our trash is plastic, and it's true many plastics can be recycled. But not all plastics are equal! And not all of them are recyclable with the Blue Cart program. Many plastics have a recycling symbol around a number on the bottom. You can put plastics with numbers 1,2,3,4,5, and 7 in the blue carts. Plastics that cannot be recycled in the blue carts are Styrofoam (#6) and plastic "film", such as plastic bags or plastic wrap.

I've heard some people complain that they should be able to recycle plastic bags in the blue carts, since stores like Jewel and Dominicks collect these bags for recycling, and use them to make a plastic lumber.

But just because it's possible to recycle something doesn't mean that it's practical, economically or environmentally. I could write pages on why plastic – in some ways a wonder material – is also wracking havoc on the world. In the book "Garbage Land - On the Secret Trail of Trash", author E.Royte has a chapter on plastic titled "The Devil's Resin". The press has been filled with reports on other countries and even some places in the U.S. that have banned disposable plastic bags and plastic bottles.

Some people also try and recycle anything that's plastic, like toys or plastic mini-blinds. They reason, perhaps it's recyclable, so why not try?

This is not a good practice because it requires the MRRF (materials recycling and recovery facility) to do extra sorting and processing to clean out the unusable items. If the materials they get from blue cart collections have too many contaminates, they'll raise the prices they charge for recycling. Which is paid for by our tax dollars.

If you are recycling because you believe it is the environmentally responsible thing to do (and it is!), try avoiding the purchase and use of plastics. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to call or email me (773) 384-6088 or Thanks for recycling!
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