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Hope Cook: Following the 4 Rs

One of my resolutions for the New Year is to be a more responsible participant in minimizing my impact on the environment. I have tried to follow the 4 Rs: Rethink what I buy. Reuse if I can. Reduce my consumption. And, of course, Recycle everything possible.

I began to wonder, however, if I was doing a good job of the last component after hearing a report on the gross contamination of recycled items. Due to the “single-stream” recycling concept, there has been an increase in the contamination of recycled items, so much so that China no longer accepts recyclables from the U.S. for processing and reuse. Instead, the items are being sold to Malaysia and being burned, providing energy but at a cost to the global air pollution problem that ultimately contributes to global warming.

I went to the website ecocycle.org and our own Yampa Valley Sustainability Council, yvsc.org, to make sure I was not part of the contamination problem. Much to my dismay, I found I had several things wrong, me a devout recycler since college in the ’70s.

So, I thought I would pass on what I have learned, just in case there are others that might benefit from the latest and greatest.

• Absolutely no plastic bags. This includes the bags you might store your recycling in. You can collect plastic bags and take them to participating grocery stores, where they have large receptacles dedicated to just plastic bag recycling.

• No shredded paper, tissue paper, Kleenex or paper towels.

• No diapers or biohazard materials, meaning anything with human waste.

• No plastic lids from glass or plastic containers. They need to be just thrown away.

• Do not flatten items like aluminum cans or steel/tin cans. It confuses the sorting machinery.

• Make sure all containers are emptied of liquids.

• Wash out what you are recycling. They don’t have to be super clean but remove the larger contents of the container. Your recycling bin will smell better if nothing else.

• No ceramics, china, mirrors, light bulbs, Pyrex or window glass.

• No frozen boxed food containers, as well as commercial, single-use to-go coffee cups.

If you want more detailed information about the above or other items not included in this list, visit yvsc.org.

I hope this has been helpful and will help all of us to be cleaner, more adept recyclers — the planet and future generations are depending on it.

Hope Cook

Steamboat Springs


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