FRAMINGHAM – Most household recyclers don’t think much about their recycling habits, when it comes to plastics.
We’ve been taught that plastics should be recycled, and we dutifully place our used plastics into the recycling container, to be hauled away to the recycling processor.
Truth be told, however, not all plastics are created equal or are even accepted by many Material Recycling Facilities, including Framingham’s processor E.L. Harvey & Son’s.
Once we place our plastics into the cart and they are hauled away, we’ve completed our end of the bargain. Or have we?
Changes in the recycling world have forced recycling processors to tighten up on what is accepted in curbside recycling carts. This includes the types of plastics, processors are now willing to accept.
The percentage of plastics that people think are recyclable can be high, and these recyclable non-recyclable plastics can end up in landfills or the better alternative would be a waste to energy facility.
So what plastics are considered the best and most valuable for recycling purposes? What should you do with the ones that are less valuable and hard to recycle?
Plastics are categorized by type.
Plastic Type1, (PETE) or (PET), better known as single-use thin wall soda and water bottles and some personal care containers, should be recycled in your cart.
Plastic Type2, (HDPE) milk jugs, cleaners, and soft-sided yogurt containers are highly valuable and very recyclable. Please recyclable these items religiously.
Plastic Type3 or (PVC) is not accepted by curbside recycling processors. Items such as PVC plumbing pipes, foam packing such as meat, dairy and produce cartoons should be disposed of as trash.
Plastic Type4 (LDPE) or the now dreaded thin-film single-use grocery bags and bread bags are not to be recycled in your curbside cart.
Rather, reuse them and then dispose at your grocery store.
Bread bags should be trashed because they normally contain food material.
Plastic Type5 (PP) personal size yogurt cups, ketchup-like and syrup bottles and “over the container” medicine bottles have high recyclable value with the exception of items like snack bags that contain potato chips and nachos, etc. These bags contain foils and food residue making them unsuitable for recycling. Please make sure containers are clean and food free before placing in your cart.
Plastic Type6 (PS) also known as polystyrene or Styrofoam is a real problem for recycling processors and should not be recycled in your cart.
There are health risks associated with polystyrene and must be discarded unless you can locate a reliable recycler to bring it to.
Framingham DPW currently has no reliable recycler at this time.
And finally, Plastic Type7 (other) is a catch-all type for undesignated plastics and is typically found in sunglasses, plastic coat hangers, computer cases, and garden hoses.
It’s hard to know which of these plastics can be recycled.
Generally the softer the plastic, the better it’s recycled value.
Do not recycle garden hoses for they are made up of several types of plastics.
In a world where recycling has never been more confusing, please visit the Framingham Department of Public Works Sanitation Division website and look for the Waste Wizard icon. Type the item you wish to recycle to learn how to handle its disposal.
Recycling Q & A
Each week I will answer your recycling questions with the hope that you will walk away a better recycler.
A reader would like to know what the City of Framingham’s policy is on paper and plastic shopping bags, and do soap and detergent containers need to be rinsed before recycling?
Framingham follows MassDEP and recycling processor’s standards and procedures. In this regard, MassDEP and recycling processors have asked all municipalities for clean and contamination-free items.
Clean meaning no food material or debris should be present and any product residue should be removed.
Paper shopping bags made from recycled materials are accepted in your cart.
Plastic bags of any kind should not be recycled in your cart.
A recycler has concerns about how clean jars and bottles need to be before putting them in the recycle bin, and should salad dressing bottles be cleaned super well before recycling, or is it better to toss them in the trash, and what about plastics that don’t have a triangle recycle number on them – can they be put in recycle bins? Example is firm plastic packaging (such as toys), small plastic tabs on bread bags.
In 2017, the Chinese government imposed what’s known as the “Green Fence” policy. This policy put all recycling exporters on notice that China would begin a selective process to reduce recycling contamination. Processors seemed not to have paid much attention to the policy.
In 2018, China imposed what became known as the “National Fence” policy, a much stricter policy that reduced recycling import contamination levels to .05 percent. A very challenging task for most recycling processors.
The result is being felt in all communities. So, clean salad dressing containers very well or dispose as trash.
Hard plastics (such as children’s toys) don’t have much recyclable value.
As far as plastic bread bag tabs are concerned, toss them in with you trash. They are too small to recycle in any significant quantity.
Editor’s Note: This is a weekly column by the Recycling Coordinator for the City of Framingham.
Residents can submit questions to Recycling Coordinator Stephen Sarnosky via SOURCE at editor@FraminghamSource.com