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Confusion Remains When It Comes to Recycling, City of Auburn Study Finds

Last fall, the City of Auburn did a survey of nearly 300 residential recycling carts, and found more than 70 percent contained items that were not actually recyclable. The City wanted to see what people were actually putting in their carts, so they could help inform residents better about recycling.

One of their big discoveries? They found a lot of loose plastic bags, in more than a third of the recycling carts surveyed. Plastic bags are recyclable, but not that way. To recycle plastic bags in Auburn, you need to make a “bag of bags” and take them to one of the many area grocery stores or other retailers that accepts them for recycling.

It’s understandable that people would put them in there, because they have heard that plastic bags are recyclable. But loose plastic bags are actually a big problem for the companies that process recyclable materials, because they get stuck in the equipment. Instead, either reuse your plastic bags at home (to pick up pet waste, for example), or recycle them by making a bag of bags and taking them to a participating retailer.

Another thing the city found was that many people put their recyclables, like their cans and bottles and paper, in plastic bags before they toss them in their recycling cart. Please don’t do that either. Dump your recyclables out of the bags right into your recycling cart. That makes it easier for workers at the processing plant.

A few other recycling tips:

  • If you have extra recyclables that won’t fit in your recycling cart, please put them in a box or can (NOT a plastic bag) and label it, “Recycle.” This will avoid your recyclables being charged as extra garbage.
  • Food-soiled paper such as paper towels or napkins should not go in the recycling cart. You can put those in your yard waste cart along with all food scraps.
  • Take caps and lids off bottles and plastic containers and put them in the garbage.

If you’ve been putting stuff in the wrong place, don’t sweat. Most people are trying their best, but recycling is confusing sometimes, and different cities and haulers may handle recycling differently.

For more information, visit www.auburnwa.gov/solidwaste.