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Recycling 411, Part Two

I couldn’t fit everything I learned from my tour of Napa Recycling into my last column. There’s so much to know, and I’ll keep reporting new things I learn or new developments in the future. For now, here’s part two of Recycling 4-1-1.

One of my biggest recycling questions was about rinsing out cans, jars and cartons. Napa Recycling public education manager Tim Dewey-Mattia told me that rinsing is not about contaminating the glass recycling process. Glass burns so hot that microbes and residues are not a big deal. Rinsing is more about not contaminating the cardboard and paper that is in the bin with your glass. Wet and dirty paper cannot be recycled, it should be composted or put into the landfill bin. That means never put a pizza box, used coffee cups or cardboard take out containers into a recycling bin.

By far the biggest problem Napa Recycling and other recycling plants have is plastic bags. They cannot be recycled and really cause problems in the recycling machines. A lot of time and money is spent sorting through our recycling on conveyor belts. I watched as the Napa Recycling sorters pulled bag after plastic bag from the recycling as it went past. In two hours a 20 foot debris box was filled with plastic bags. That was just two hours’ worth on a single day of recycling collection.

If you are like most of my clients, you have dozens of fabric grocery bags. Put them in your car and use them, and try to use the compostable green produce bags whenever possible (yes they are wimpy and rip easily, but it’s so much better for our environment). If you absolutely have to use a plastic bag, put it into your garbage bin, not the blue recycle bin.

More interesting facts from Napa recycling educator Tim Dewy-Mattias:

• Glass from picture frames or windows is not recyclable; it burns at a different temperature

• Don’t throw that painted picture frame into yard waste—any painted or treated wood cannot be composted, but untreated wood, like a 2×4, can.

• Drinks boxes like a soy milk box or milk carton aren’t quite as important to rinse because they go through a different treatment to remove the plastic film labeling before recycling. You can leave the lid on also.

• Leave the lid on plastic bottles—that way they don’t float around and will get recycled • About wine closures: cork goes into compost, screw cap goes into recycling and plastic goes into landfill

• Soup cans and lined tin cans can be recycled.

• In the recycling process a magnet is used to separate out the metal from paper, glass and cardboard. The sorters do not get cut on sharp edges because they wear heavy duty gloves.

• You can take plastic bags back to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods for a reuse program.

• Don’t fill and close a cardboard box or a garbage bag with recycling, let it float free so it can be sorted, otherwise closed boxes cause problems. The exception—bag your shredded paper; sorters will pull it and recycle it.

• CDs and DVDs are considered e-waste. Donate music CDs and movies if possible.

• Christmas lights are e-waste.

• Unwearable clothing can be made into rags or insulation. Goodwill or Napa Recycling will send it on to companies that do it.

• For shipping supplies like popcorn and bubble wrap—bag it and take it back to a shipping store like Cartons & Crates in Napa. It cannot be recycled. Same for the airbags in amazon and other shipments.

• Recycling produces ten times more jobs than just throwing things “away”—into a landfill • Sheetrock from contractors is accepted and ground down for the gypsum content which is a great soil amendment for olive groves (it is not eligible for certified organic vineyards though).

• 40% of glass used to make California wine bottles must be from recycled glass.

• E-waste is sent to Fresno where it is taken apart and parts can be reused or further recycled.

I received several calls and e-mails after my last column on recycling; people are frustrated, particularly about what can and can’t be put into blue recycling bins and I hope Part Two of the column addressed some of those questions. Recycling is definitely something that takes a bit of study and we can each only do our best. I’m not able to return phone calls to answer individual questions—please contact Napa Recycling or UpValley Disposal if you have further questions. The naparecycling.com web site offers a wealth of information and I found it very easy to navigate.