Dirty Recycling Contaminated Mostly By Food Waste

Published: Monday, July 8, 2019 - 1:33pm
Updated: Tuesday, July 9, 2019 - 9:29am

Twenty-five to 30% of what we put into the recycle bin is too dirty with other trash to go anywhere but the landfill. This percentage of dirty recyclables is covered primarily with food waste, according to the National Waste and Recycling Association.

At the National Waste conference last week, David Friedman, CEO of Friedman Recycling which operates in Phoenix, Tuscon and El Paso, said food contamination is the single most problematic issue for recyclers.

“You don’t throw things in the garbage. You try to recycle it. And if you can’t, you don’t buy it — if you can get around it,” said Leanne Lestak, an avid recycler. She said composting is the answer for food contamination, keeping food waste out of the trash completely.

"It’s just looking at the world through those eyes: reduce, reuse, recycle," Lestak said. "And it doesn’t go in the landfill. You can bring to-go containers with you to a restaurant, because you know you are not going to eat all the food. So you bring your own plastic to-go container or glass whatever you want to bring in."

Lestak said even if a community doesn't support composting at the municipal level, compostable bags are still available at grocery stores that can be used instead of plastic bags.

Recycling processors have been looking for ways to clean up the food waste that has contaminated recycled products since China severely reduced the amount of contaminated waste it would import from the U.S. 18 months ago.

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