Ask Ann Landfill
Dear Ann Landfill,
Plastic recycling is confusing! I put a half gallon of milk and one of tea of juice and the tea or the juice container gets left behind. WHY? They look pretty much the same as the milk jug.
Also, I know that they always take my diet Pepsi bottles and they have a #1 printed inside a recycling sign on the bottom, but when a I put out a clear plastic box that has a #1, it gets left behind. Why?
It makes me feel like quitting!
Plastically confused & frustrated.
Dear frustrated recycler,
I know that plastic recycling is a bit confusing so let me try to clear up some common misunderstandings.
The plastics that we can recycle at the curb have two criteria: they must be a #1 or a #2 and they must be a bottle, jar, or jug.
There are other plastic containers like tubs or take out “clam shells” that often have a #1 on the bottom, but these containers are not recyclable like bottles are. Bottles are blow molded and clam shells are hot stamped, so the two are made differently and therefore have different formulas that perform ideally in their different production methods. By the way #1 & #2 bottles make up well of 90% of the plastic container stream.
The second confusion point is that there are some bottles or jugs that mostly resemble the #2’s are usually labeled #7 (other). These jugs usually hold a liquid that may be cooked in some way that and cannot be bottles in the readily recyclable #2 (HDPE).
I hope my explanations have eliminated your confusion and eased your frustration, and please keep on recycling.
I notice that you do not accept plastic bags in your residential recycling. When I research where I can recycle things like bread bags, plastic food wrappers, etc. what I see over and over is that citizens should take these to the plastic recycling stations at grocery stores. I do know that Acme in Chestertown, has such a drop off receptacle, but I’m wondering if it actually gets recycled and if grocery stores can and are recycling this sort of plastic, why is no other organization doing it?
Any info you can provide on recycling plastic bags would be very much appreciated.
It’s admirable that you are taking the initiative to recycle plastic bags. This material has many challenges in getting recycled. At standard recycling facilities, this material gets mixed and contaminated with the liquids and broken glass that accompany them. Also these bags tend to clog the machinery, especially the conveyors, as all the material is processed. Essentially plastic bags are an impediment to standard recycling.
Fortunately plastic bag recycling has been most successful when they are collected separately. So the grocery store collection programs offer the best solution.
Still there are problems that need to be dealt with. Different plastic bags are made with different types of resins, so that not all bags can be recycled together. If there is too much cross contamination, the effort is jeopardized. Also with the drop in value of oil and gas, the plastic recycling market has been greatly affected, making the process more expensive than the material that is recovered. Since many of the large recycling facilities are run by waste companies, it is more sensible for them to throw such low value material away.
Of course the fate of your plastic bags comes down to the individual collector. It would take a bit of detective work to come to an accurate conclusion.
Infinity continues to recycle our plastic bottles, plastic boat wrap and poly woven plastic bulk bags. Our broker still pays us for it, although most of the present value is below our processing cost. But markets are always shifting and, hopefully, rebounding.
Of course one can use re-useable bags, although that won’t completely replace the many plastic bags that are food packages.
Keep up the good efforts.
Dear Ann Landfill,
I have a 6 volt flashlight battery. Do you take those? If not, where can I take it so it will not end up in a landfill?
I commend your responsibility for your discards. Batteries are a troubling area of proper discard management. Here are two non-landfill options:
Our four county Mid-Shore Recycling Program (MRRP) holds hazardous waste collection events every six months moving among Kent, Queen Anne, Talbot, & Caroline. You could hold your battery until then. MRRP is headquartered in Queen Anne & you can see their collect dates via the web site www.qac.org.
The other option is to search the web for battery recycling where you may find a site like Battery Solutions. They will offer a kit which usually consists of a collection box where you hold your batteries and send to them when full. You usually pay the postage and they guarantee to discard it safely.
Thanks for taking the time to search out the proper option for your battery. Keep it up and you’ll be on your way towards Zero Waste (which is quite nonhazardous).
**UPDATE** – Chestertown now collects batteries for recycling at the Town Office located at 118 N Cross Street.
Dear Ann Landfill,
I was wondering how the used clothing (etc.) you collect was recycled. Is it being donated to be re-worn or is it being cut up and shredded to be made into something else? I’m asking because I have a lot of old clothes (etc.) that aren’t in wearable condition but the fabric may be useful. They may have a stain, tear or bad elastic etc. I also have shrunken wool items that may be useful for something. I’ve been holding on to them because I use to make craft items out and I hate to throw out anything that may have second life as something else down the road, but at this point, am unlikely to find the time to make something out of them anytime soon. Do you want me to recycle them or do you only want wearable items?
We sell our used clothing to a clothing/fabric recycler. The first thing they do with the material is sort it into a few categories such as vintage, wearable or rags. Interestingly many of the wearable tee shirts are baled together and sent all over the world where small dealers will bicycle into the capital city to purchase a small bale and return to the village to resell them.
The rag grades are taken apart and remade into wiping cloth that is used by printers and mechanics.
I hope I have answered your questions.
Dear Ann Landfill,
For the second week in a row, a bunch of plastic containers were left behind by our pick-up people. I do not understand this as they have a #1 on the bottom. They are, for the most part, fruit and veggie containers. Can you please explain why they are not being picked up?
I understand your frustration, for we are equally frustrated for a similar reason.
The plastics industry established these code numbers which are displayed inside the unregistered recycling trade mark of chasing arrows. Also according to them, many types of containers include similar enough ingredients that they can be assigned the same number.
Most containers have unique combinations of ingredients to suit their individual tasks and environments. In making bottles, they employ a blow mold process, similar to blowing an elastic bubble into a mold and when the hollow bubble cools and the mold is opened a bottle is revealed. The other way to make plastic stuff is by pouring it into a cast mold. In this case, the melted plastic flows into the mold and when it cools a tray or cup is revealed.
So a #1 bottle has ingedients that can blow & expand into a formed bubble and a #1 tray or cup has ingredients that allow it to smoothly flow into a cast.
So far the recycling industry has excelled in using the recycled blow mold ingredients to make other stuff such as polar fleece and reuseable shopping bags. Hence only #1 & #2 bottles are sought after and paid for.
The trend for these materials is either someone figures out to use it (for example only #2 bottles in natural color like milk jugs were the only recyclable plastic for years, then came #1’s) or it will eliminated and substituted by a material that is recyclable. (Many plastic bottles used to be made out of vinyl, which is serious contaminant for the other bottles. It was used for Windex and shampoos, but it is rare since that stuff is now packed in #1’s or #2’s)
So our frustration is aimed at the plastics industry who did such an incomplete and confusing job in labeling their plastic material. I hope there are some breakthroughs that allow us to accept and recycle more materials. I believe that it is happening in larger markets, although some operations have found that if they accept all bottles or all ridgid plastics, they receive more of the recyclable material. Of course they also have to trash more material after the good stuff is sorted out.
I hope I’ve answered your questions and have minimized your frustrations.
**UPDATE** Other types of plastics are: Cast Mold, usually for plastic utensils, tools or toys. ThermoForm, items like trays, plates and cups are made by pressing a hot form into a flat sheet of plastic.
Dear Ann Landfill,
I tore down an old shed in my yard, and now I have a small pile of bricks left over. How can I recycle them?
Challenge from Chester Harbor
Obviously old bricks can’t be recycled into new bricks because clay has already been fired. But they are a durable item and there are a million REUSES for bricks. If they’re in good condition and don’t have a lot of cement on them, build something, a planter, a barbecue, a walkway, a border around a flower bed, a floor for your wood stove, a stand for your curbside recycling containers, a post for your mailbox…the possibilities are endless. Other people might like to have them. Put an ad in the Tidewater Trader. Place them by the side of the road with a sign : “FREE.” The masonry class at the high school could use them. Is there a new house going up in your neighborhood?
If they’re broken and mixed with a lot of cement, they are useful for drainage and fill, a low spot in your yard, improve the drainage under your outdoor faucet or a gutter spout, a pothole in your lane, under a newly planted tree if your soil is heavy.
You say your yard is perfect in every way and you just want to dispose of them? Bricks and mortar would be classified “construction and demolition debris” at the landfill. They can be dropped off at no charge if you are a resident (not a business) and you have less than a pickup load.
Well, good luck, and as they say in the brick business, level, plumb and square!
Dear Ann Landfill,
We just decided to get a new updated computer and we were wondering what to do with the old one?
That’s such a timely question, for about 20 million computers become obsolete a year and that’s a lot of desk or landfill space. This is also important for these & other electronics & especially TV’s all contain toxins such as lead, mercury, cadmium & chromium. You could call the local schools to see if they would take it as a donation. You could also call our Mid-Shore recycling coordinator, James Wood (410-758-6605) to find out when the next household hazardous waste collection day is. Or you can call the Maryland Department of the Environment’s number 800-633-6101, ext.3314 or log on to www.mde.state.md.us.
Also, some computer companies and, of course, electronic recycling companies take old computers, and they often require a fee, but it’s well worth keeping our world toxic free.
Dear Ann Landfill,
I’ve been wondering about used tires. What can we do with our old tires and what happens to them?
Tired of Tires
I have always thought that the person who figures out how to truly recycle tires, i.e. make new tires from old in a closed loop, the person will become incredibly wealthy and our world will benefit immensely.
Presently many tires can be reused after being capped or re-treaded. Tires are also shredded and the steel belts are removed and recycled and the bits of rubber have been used for a variety of applications including soaker hoses, industrial mats and playground and running track surfaces and it has been added to asphalt for roads and parking lots.
But by far most tires are burnt in incinerators capturing some energy in steam and electricity or burnt in cement kilns and obviously millions are just illegally discarded.
To responsibly deal with used tires you can:
A. Pay a small fee (about $2 per car tires) to the dealer that sells you the new ones.
B. Take the tires to your local trash transfer site who will accept them for a trash fee.
C. Call a tire pick up service, who will pick up many tires at once, again for a fee that varies with the tire size.
D. or you can research a tire re-treader, but the tire cannot be too worn or have defects.
Here is some additional information:
As you’ll see the tire policy varies greatly with each county and state.
-tires up to 22” may be taken to a transfer station
-the charge is $2.00 per tire
-the limit is 5 tires per year
-no tractor tires
Queen Anne’s County
-tires up to 16” are accepted at the transfer stations
-the charge is one ticket (a book of tickets is $20)
-no heavy truck or tractor tires
-all tires are accepted at the landfill outside Easton
-the charges are: $2.00 per passenger tire, $4.00 with rim (20-25 pounds, average weight), 4.00 per light truck tire, $7.00 per heavy truck tire (90 pounds,average weight), $347.50 per ton for tractor tires (150 pound tire costs about $30)
-passenger and light truck tires are accepted at transfer stations
-there is no charge but you must have a permit to prove residency
-no heavy truck or farm tires
-They often have a tire amnesty day sometime in Spring that accepts all tires.
-passenger and light truck tires are accepted at the Beulah Landfill
-you may drop off five tires at $2.00 per tire
-passenger and light truck tires are accepted at each county’s landfill
-the charge is $125 per ton or about $1.25 per tire
Obviously if you have the larger tires you may want to look elsewhere. Here are some possibilities and be sure to check out the phone book.
Dirt Express-410-766-0260- Pick up charge is around $115 per ton and you need a bunch of tires for pick up (about 100).
Doug’s Tire Service-410-479-2283- has no pick up but you may drop off tires-charge is $3.00 for passenger and light truck tires, $8.00 for 22” and 24” tires and $15 for tractor tires
Anderson Recycling in Salisbury-410-749-5570 will pick up fifty tires minimum. The charge is by the ton which is about $1.45 for passenger and light truck tires, 1.75 for heavy truck tires and $6.00 for 24” and 27” tires.
Magnus Environmental in Delaware-302-655-4443-You can arrange for a pick up or they accept drop offs with a charge per ton, passenger car tires are $100 per ton and 22” tires are $175 per ton. No tractor tires
Dear Ann Landfill,
My daughter came hope from school and said she wanted to start a worm bin to eat our kitchen waste for a school project. Can I go in my backyard and dig up worms and how do I get started?
Carl from Centreville
No, you can’t dig up worms in your backyard, you have to use a certain type of worm called a red worm (eisenia fetida). To get started you need an aerated container, bedding such as newspaper, moisture, a small amount of soil and of course the red worms. You bury your kitchen waste in the bin and the worms will eat the waste, bedding, and bacteria. They turn the waste into plant food. You can use the plant food to grow your vegetables or for your flower garden. There is a good instructional book to help you, it’s called Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof. She also has a great website with lots of information www.wormwoman.com. Have fun composting!