San Diego

Plastic Bags Gum Up the Works at Recycling Center

Keeping trash loose, clean and dry

Families who keep their recycling in plastic bags need to dump the bag before handing over their cans and bottles.

"Keep the recycling loose," said San Diego recycling specialist Steve Weyhe, "meaning we don't want recyclables in bags."

The problem stems in what happens when plastic bags make it to the sorting machines at the recycling center.

"The workers literally have to stop production, shut down the lines and get in there and actually cut out the plastic bags," said Weyhe.

The conveyer belt in the sorting machine runs at a face pace.  Workers stand along the moving belt and divide recyclables and take out banned items which can include extension cords, batteries, and clothing.  When a bag of cans and bottles comes along, those same workers have to open up the bag and dump the bottles along the belt.  If they miss the bag it can get tangled in the machinery.

"In the process of dumping it out they may miss other contaminates or they may be missing other items that can be sorted," said Weyhe.

The City of San Diego has an ad campaign on the side of trash trucks encouraging the homeowner to "Keep it Loose, Don't Bag Recyclables."

Steve Weyhe says right now about 68 percent of San Diego trash is recycled.  That saves resources and prolongs the life of the landfill.

Weyhe says recyclables should be dry, empty and clean, and not in a plastic bag.  He says some of those bags can be recycled at grocery and hardware stores.

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