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Diving into the recycling stream

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By Tom Nagawiecki

As the Environmental Services Specialist I spend a fair deal of my time working on recycling program planning and education and outreach.  What I do not get the opportunity to do very often is get my hands dirty and see the recycling stream up close and personal.  That opportunity presented itself recently when we were down two collection vehicles and needed additional staffing to get the recyclables collected.  So I threw on my steel-toe boots, gloves and safety vest and headed out to the Western Area.  
Dumping residential recycling roll carts by hand presented a wonderful opportunity to analyze how well the community was doing in terms of generating a clean recyclable stream, and strengthen some arm and back muscles.  Each recycle roll cart that was serviced was visually inspected for contamination.  If it appeared that more than 15 percent of the materials in the bin were unacceptable items the household was marked down as having a contaminated recycling load.  Using this methodology, 13 of the 95 loads were contaminated.  It should be noted that the majority of bins had some level of contamination.


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