Recycling facility cleans up rumors
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 21:04
Rumors sometimes circulate among students that despite their placement of recyclables in the assigned bins, they are not actually reused.
On April 20, students who took a tour of the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Williston, Vt. got the chance to see where their recycling goes.
MRF has been a single stream recycling facility since 2003, which means that all different types of recyclables go into the same bin and are then sorted at MRF, according to waste reduction coordinator Michelle Morris.
“Just because it has a number on it, does not mean it’s recyclable here,” she said. “The number just represents what kind of plastic it was made of, not that it was made to be recycled.”
MRF has workers whose job is to weed out items that do not belong at the facility, which includes anything that may have food residue on it.
If an item is made of paper that is used to store things in a fridge, the rule of thumb is to consider it trash, Morris said. The wax that is used to coat the paper contaminates the fibers of the paper, so it is no longer recyclable.
“If one of those paper packages makes it to this facility, it gets sorted out automatically and sent to the landfill,” she said. “So you just used extra energy and it ended up in the landfill anyways.”
Morris explained that it is important to remember the three Rs in order from greatest importance to least: reduce, reuse and recycle. Recycling is last on the list because it uses the most energy and is the most expensive option, she said.
In light of this, some students seem determined to continue recycling.
“Obviously, it’s important to keep recycling,” sophomore Anna Lidofsky said. “But, I think that if these issues exist, they should be better publicized.”
Lidofsky said there need to be clearer guidelines on what can and cannot be recycled. She also suggested that the plant needs to find a better way to deal with food residue.
Another sophomore, Jake Orr, said that he tries to recycle but doesn’t go out of his way to do so.
“I just don’t feel like my personal contributions to recycling or not recycling make much of a difference in the world,” Orr said. “I recycle sometimes, but I’m just no good at it.”
To learn more about what is recyclable, visit www.uvm.edu/~recycle.