Skelton: Why California’s once-proud recycling program ‘is teetering on the edge’

By George Skelton
Los Angeles Times

Californians dutifully load up their recycling bins and feel good about themselves. They’re helping the environment and being good citizens.

But their glow might turn to gloom if they realized that much of the stuff is headed to a landfill.

That’s because there’s no longer a recycling market for a lot of the paper, cardboard, plastic and other junk that’s left curbside.

Moreover, people are tossing garbage into those blue bins that they shouldn’t be. It just gums up the process.

“People are engaged in wish recycling,” says Mark Oldfield, public affairs director at CalRecycle, which runs the state’s recycling program. “They think: ‘This should be recycled. I’m going to put it in the bin.’”

“It’s amazing what people put in recycling bins,” Oldfield continues. “Dirty diapers. Broken crockery. Old garden hoses. Some of the worst offenders are old batteries.”

But what constitutes forbidden material is more nuanced than soiled diapers and corrosive batteries. Oldfield says it includes pizza boxes blotched with cheese and grease, plastic wrappers for food, shredded paper, unclean jelly jars, broken glass, unrinsed bottles and newspapers that have lined bird cages. Even paper envelopes with plastic address windows.

Recyclers these days don’t want items with mixed material such as paper and plastic, or cardboard and tape. It doesn’t pay to tear the stuff apart. Off to the landfill.

Moreover, what used to be California’s — and the world’s — largest overseas market for recyclables recently shut its door.

“China doesn’t want our garbage anymore,” says Steve Maviglio, a political strategist who is advising the recycling industry. “It’s time we cleaned up our own mess.”

In January, China began barring “contaminated” material it once accepted. And under China’s new rules, if something is one-half of 1 percent contaminated, it’s too impure for recycling.

“This policy change is already starting to have adverse impacts on …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


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