The Recycle Bin is a weekly column on what to recycle, what not to recycle and why, in Brunswick.

1. Recycling is for household Items.

Those are things that generally enter our home through places like the kitchen, the bathroom or the laundry. They do not include items for the yard, the cellar, or the garage (tools, toys, parts, etc.). There are hundreds of types of steel, for example. Soup cans come in via the kitchen and are recyclable. Hammers and rakes are cellar/garage tools, and they cannot be recycled. Laundry soap bottles are fine, but lawn chairs and yard tools are not. Look out for a few oddities. Half gallon Hannaford plastic orange juice bottles, for example, are returnable, while the quart size is recyclable. That, however, is a state decision, not Hannaford’s. The state decides what goes in which of those categories – the store has nothing to say about it!

2. When plastic items are recycled, what happens next?

The short answer is, of course, that they are baled up and sent on to the remanufacturers who turn them into other products. At least one recycle center handles them this way:

#1 plastic (Polyethylene terephthalate) is baled separately (soda bottles, and clear plastic)

#2 natural is one bale: (High-density polyethylene) Translucent milk or orange juice containers, for example

#2 colored is baled separately: Bleach, and detergent bottles, etc.

#4 is mostly plastic bags that should back to the grocery store, not put in our bins.

#3,4,5,6,7 are all baled together. Any containers that show the #7 symbol are fine to recycle and go in here. Some of the newer grocery store packaging uses this type of plastic to replace Styrofoam. The products for which this grade of material is used are things that generally can’t be recycled again anyway (called “final use” products). Things like toys, furniture, decking, rakes, etc. are made from this sort of plastic mix, although the re-manufacturers often do separate the products themselves for specialized uses of their own. That’s why we can put things in the bin that are made from some items groups like EPA declare cannot be recycled. They can’t, really, but they can often be re-used, or repurposed.

3. Special considerations:

Styrofoam, even if it’s labeled with a triangle and the #6, is not recyclable. Nor, we need to remember, is any plastic product without a recycle triangle and number stamped on it at all.

Most #4 plastic we see is plastic films or bags. In Brunswick, and Casella’s system generally, those cannot be put into the recycling bins, because they will get caught in the sorting machinery and cause it to jam. Instead, those should be taken back to the grocery store. We’ve noted, in other places, that Hannaford has a much stronger program for recycling these films than others do. Drop me an email, and I’ll send you their list of items they can take back.

The public is encouraged to submit questions by email to [email protected]. Harry Hopcroft is a member of the Brunswick Recycling and Sustainability Committee. 

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