When Recycling Isn’t

By Marcia E. Gawecki

By all appearances, Idyllwild has the perfect set-up for recycling. Just down the street on Saunders Meadow, our transfer station offers recycling of bottles, cans, glass and even organic materials, such as leaves, twigs and branches. All you have to do is follow the signs and dump the organic recycling in the back. Yet, one local artist and activist recently discovered that not everything is recyclable.

“I called Waste Management, the company that runs our transfer station, and they told me that they’re not recycling our organic waste,” said Jessica Shiffman, an illustrator and activist living in Idyllwild. Originally, she had called to find out if she could use some of the organic material to help grow her own vegetables. Like other residents, she assumed it would be broken down, as compost, and returned to the earth, perhaps as mulch. The Waste Management representative told her that the organic materials are just dumped into the landfill along with rubber tires and everything else.

“So why have the appearances of a separate organic dumpsite in the back?” she asked them. “People think something is being done about that, being turned into compost or fertilizer or chipping material. It’s a real shame.”

That’s not the only local recycling disappointment. Jessica also found out that the Idyllwild Post Office doesn’t recycle papers that are put into the bins by residents.

“They can’t recycle letters and other mail because there’s legal and personal information on it,” she said. “To recycle it, they’d have to shred all the paper first. They don’t have the manpower or time for all that.”

So for those resident who stand in front of the bins at the post office every day to sort and toss mail, know that all that stuff is not being recycled. It will be thrown into the trash along with everything else.

“If people prefer to have their mail and other personal papers recycled, they should take it to the transfer station themselves,” Jessica suggested. “It’s up to them if they want to shred it first.”

On the upside, Jessica found out that certain plastic recycling, like those wrappers that cover meats and cheeses, are recyclable. “They told me that it doesn’t matter much if there’s a little foodstuff left on it,” Jessica said. “They prefer everything to be clean, but it’s OK to have a little residue on the plastic wrappers.”

Another surprise was that the black plastic containers that contain plants and trees are not recyclable. “It’s a different kind of plastic,” she said. “Apparently, it’s the wrong kind, and Waste Management said they can’t recycle it.”

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

One Comment to “When Recycling Isn’t”

  1. Thanks for publishing this, Marcia! They also can’t recycle aluminum foil or styrofoam.

    I actually didn’t ask them why have the appearance etc. with the “green waste.” Just asked what happens to it, and was disappointed to find that it goes into landfill along with tires, appliances and everything. A community composting center might be a good idea.

    Plastic gets mashed together into huge blocks, but no-one seemed to have any idea of where it went.