Alas, no matter how much I read about this stuff, and how many sources I examine, there are always going to be changes, typos, brain cramps and updates that will occasionally modify what I’ve said before. The best we can do is just correct them when they pop up and move on.

Decimal Points and Percentages

I recently said I was shooting for a maximum of 5% contamination in our single stream recycle bins by the end of this year. I still do, but in that same article, I got the 5% and 0.5% numbers confused. In fact, the Chinese government, as part of National Sword, now accepts only 0.5% contamination. Other places, the industry standard is 5%, so, since our processors are not currently sending stuff to China, they are holding to the 5% rate. The folks at ecomaine have recently noted in some of their monthly reports to member cities, contamination rates from 1% to 17%, but the average in really about 10%, so our goals are realistic and achievable with a little effort.

Shredded Paper Update

I recently had two emails on the same day about shredded paper. I have noted in the past that possibly the best way to handle that is by composting, and that our current recycling processors cannot handle it at all, so it becomes trash in their system. A reader has seconded the composting, and suggested a very neat website at that discusses the issues. It’s a bit of typing to get there, but worth the effort, which addresses an issue of possible toxins in the inks on the papers. It turns out that they were toxic a couple of decades ago, but no longer are. Composting paper is entirely safe!

Alternative Recycling Options

I was recently taken to task with the claim that more bathroom items can be recycled than what I suggested. Certain toothbrushes, for example, can be shipped off to specific places, as can the toothpaste tubes that say you can put them with Number 2 plastic, or bamboo and “compostable” plastics. This is true — to a point. To recycle these items, you need to subscribe to a service that sends you a large box in which to toss these items. You then ship the box to a specific location and get another one. The same companies market products that are either in recyclable containers, or that their boxes can accept. I have not promoted these solutions for two major reasons. One is that I find the products unreasonably expensive to buy, and then unreasonably expensive to send back, and I do not generally promote specific retailers. The other is that my primary purpose here is to discuss local recycling and composting options. None of the local recycle processors, and none of the local composters can handle these products, so I don’t include them as recyclable materials.

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