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Positive Numbers: The Skinny on Monroe County’s June 1st Recycling Expansion

June 2011

recycling box graphic

June 1st is going to be an exciting day for lovers of the environment in Monroe County this year. On this day, the Monroe County Recycling Center (MCRC) will be accepting plastic containers ranging from numbers 1 through 7!

To those of you whom this does not strike as new information, before now only # 1 and # 2 plastics were accepted as recyclables, and all other numbers that were placed in the blue bin were considered contaminants in the recycling stream.

What this means is that now your Starbucks and yogurt cups will finally have the opportunity to be recycled into new products instead of going to the landfill. A whole host of new items are also acceptable now, including Tupperware containers, CD jewel cases, clamshell take-out containers, plastic utensils, and even broken or unwanted laundry baskets. 

The reason recycling is so strictly limited by those little numbers on the bottom of containers is because of what the numbers mean. And for many, that is the question: what do those numbers mean?

Essentially, the numbers 1-7 serve as a resin ID code, meaning they tell plastic recycling companies what materials different items contain. These numbers indicate how easy the plastics are to recycle, what quality of material their recycling results in, and the potential toxicity of the chemicals used in the manufacture of the plastic. The numbers accepted from area to area vary simply because of individual companies’ ability to recycle various grades of plastic. Numbers 1 and 2, for example, are the most commonly reprocessed plastics for the simple reason that they are the easiest to recycle, yielding the most usable results; whereas, for example, # 3 plastics (polyvinyl chloride, or PVC) are more challenging because PVC can be highly toxic to both the environment and humans, so must be handled cautiously.

In addition to the new plastics being accepted, aluminum foil and foilware, such as pie and roast pans, can now be recycled as well. This is another great improvement as recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy it would take to produce entirely new products!

While this is a huge step for sustainability in Monroe County, the programs require everyone’s cooperation and there are still some items that are not acceptable to put in the bin. Styrofoam of any kind continues to be a problem and will not be accepted. As always, any container that held hazardous material (pesticides, antifreeze, etc.) will still not be accepted. Additionally plastic shopping bags, though they often are labeled with #2, need to be brought to an in-store recycling station (e.g. Wegmans), and cannot be recycled at the curb.

Another important rule to keep in mind is to always separate recyclable bottles, jugs, and jars from their caps and lids before placing them both into the bin. Because they are often made of different kinds of plastics, while they can both be recycled, they cannot always be recycled together. Another reason is that when the caps are left on bottles, it often prevents them from being properly cleaned and compacted. Please remember to rinse out all containers first as well.

Naturally, as a part of Monroe County we now have the opportunity to recycle all these materials at the University. You can do this by placing the items in any collection container for plastic, metal, and glass. Additionally, the University of Rochester is considered a controlled environment and therefore may have other opportunities for specialized materials as a result of the program’s expansion. To help spread the word of this exciting news, visit the recycling webpage at: www.rochester.edu/sustainability/recycling/.  Click on the “print-and-share” poster and hang one up in your working and kitchen area.

For more information on residential recycling in Monroe County, including a new item summary list and recycling reference card, please visit: www.monroecounty.gov/des-residentialrecycling.php.