Are your recycling efforts going to waste? - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

Are your recycling efforts going to waste?

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By Andrew Freiden - bio | email
Posted by Phil Riggan - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It might be time to think twice before you take your recycling to the street. A lot of what's in your bin will end up in the trash if you're not careful.

It says recyclable right here on the label - but your salad bar container gets tossed into the trash. And that's not the only thing that isn't as recyclable as you thought. We went to the facility that handles our area's recycling to find out what you should put in the trash, instead of the recycling bin.

"Half gallon milk cartons. These are not recyclable. Coated with wax inside and out. So you can't get the fiber out," said Bill Feltus with TFC Recycling in Chester.

Feltus says they get a lot things in their trucks that just slows down the sorting process.  Let's start with plastic bottles.  They are recyclable, the bottle tops are not.

"It's nice if you take the cap off. It helps to compress the bale, we can get more in if the top is off," Feltus said.

And when the bottles are squeezed together,  they can explode if the top is on. Grab a cold drink and relax - the list of recycling no-nos is just getting started.

Pizza boxes:  trash. There is leftover food residue on those. Aluminum foil and pie tins - also a no.

"Because of the quality standards of the people who buy aluminum...they do not want the pie plates," Feltus said.

Styrofoam packaging - no.  But people insist on putting it in the bin, Feltus said. Hardcover books - no. The cover is too hard to rip off.

And there's a new problem at the plant - shredded paper. Your sensitive financial data turns the facility into a mess. The paper just flies all over the place like confetti.

That dog food bag is another pet peeve.

"Because of the coatings on these bags they are totally not recyclable," Feltus said.

But the number one culprit is plastic bags. 

"This is the most difficult thing to deal with at the plant. It wraps around the machines," Feltus said.

Then they have to shut down the machines, wasting valuable time. 

It's not all bad. They are happy to get your newspaper, milk jugs, plastic bottles, aluminum cans but old paint cans - no way. Leave it in the trash. 

We've put much more recycling information on our website. There's a link to CVWMA where you can get more guidance on what is recyclable.  And tune in next week at 5 p.m.  Andrew will have a look at how the recycling process actually works.

Recycling factoids

Aluminum
Recycling an aluminum can uses just 5% of the energy that is used to produce a new can! An aluminum can is 100% recyclable all the time!

We use over 8 billion aluminum cans a year. Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for three hours - or the equivalent of a half a gallon of gasoline.

Steel
Steel can be recycled over and over again as new steel. Scrap steel reduces related water pollution, air pollution, and mining wastes by about 70%. It takes four times as much energy to make steel from virgin ore. Annually, enough energy is saved by recycling steel to supply the city of Los Angeles with almost a decade worth of electricity. (Source: National Polymers Inc.)

Paper
Recycling one ton of paper saves: 17 mature trees, 7,000 gallons of water, 24 gallons of gasoline, 463 gallons of oil, 4,300 kw-hrs of electricity and 3.5 cubic yards of landfill.

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