Limit for stray plastic in municipal paper recycling collections?
December 10, 2018 10:37 AM   Subscribe

I appreciate that everywhere which collects recycling has different systems/providers (I live in London but there was a different recycling/rubbish collection company when I lived a couple of miles away, let alone different parts of the country or even overseas) but I'm looking for a baseline on how much this matters.

I always try to do things like remove plastic windows from paper envelopes and plastic inserts or hanging tags from card packaging but it's probably rare that something doesn't slip through with a plastic sticker or some tape attached.

I've heard horror stories about a whole truck full of recycling being consigned to landfill if there's one unacceptable item but surely they're able to deal with some erroneous plastic?

How does this work and what's the cutoff?
posted by Dext to Home & Garden (1 answer total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Recycling probably isn't processed by your municipality, really, beyond minimal sorting if you have single stream recycling -- it's sold by them. The price at which it can be sold depends on the overall level of contamination, and when contamination levels rise too high, then there may simply not be a market for the product anymore because frankly, the market for most recyclable materials isn't all that strong to begin with and since the beginning of this year, China is no longer buying anything but the most desirable recyclables. As a result, the market is basically in the toilet.

So, it isn't a matter of your one piece of plastic being the difference between a given load being salable or not, so much as the general cleanliness of the recycling stream in your area dictating whether it's salable and what price it will fetch. It's an individual action / collective action situation, and it's a bit depressing, but the market situation right now is so dire that it probably makes very little difference what you do. Even if your locale's recycling is relatively clean, there is a good chance they still won't be able to sell it.

This NY Times article is a good overview.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:11 AM on December 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

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