Going for Green in Lyons

By Kathleen Thurmes, Eco-Cycle
Plastics are quite possibly the most ubiquitous materials in our society. As such, plastics are at once a blessing and a curse, serving both critically important and totally trivial purposes, and ultimately plaguing us with mind-boggling amounts of waste that we are hard-pressed to get rid of.

While Zero Waste pioneers explore ways to live without plastic (a feat as yet unachieved as far as I know), the rest of us rely heavily on recycling to responsibly dispose of the stuff.

But recycling plastics can get tricky and fast. Plastics have morphed into thousands of different products and uses over the last half century. Sometimes we use them without even knowing it. For example, plastic typically coats the inside of frozen food boxes, which renders the paperboard neither recyclable nor compostable. Yet, unless you know what to look for, it’s not easy to see.

So if you’re a little confused about how to recycle all of the plastic products in your life, then you’ve come to the right place. I’m going to tell you which plastics products can be recycled in Boulder County and where to recycle them.

Let’s start with the easy stuff. In Boulder County, you can recycle plastic bottles, tubs, jugs, and jars—regardless of which number is on them—all of which go to your local drop-off center (or in your single-stream curbside recycling bin if you subscribe to the service). This general list includes soda pop bottles, butter tubs, milk jugs, peanut butter jars, and etcetera. (For graphic guidelines, go to: http://ecocycle.org/recycle-compost-reuse#recycle). Please ensure that containers are empty of food and liquids. Food and liquid in the recycling stream is a significant contaminant.

These recyclable plastics are sorted and processed at the publicly-owned Boulder County Recycling Center, which Eco-Cycle operates, and are sold on both national and international recycling markets, which are well established. Manufacturers large and small use the discarded plastics to make new products ranging from decking materials to clothing to new containers.

Next, there’s a whole set of “hard-to-recycle” plastic products, which can be recycled in Boulder County at the Eco-Cycle/City of Boulder Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials (CHaRM). Markets for these items tend to be local and are generally not nearly as large or well established as those mentioned above.
Plastics accepted at the CHaRM include: plastic bags; plastic bubble wrap; thin, bendable foam packing sheets; big durable #2 plastics, such as plastic play structures, lawn furniture, watering cans, barrels, crates, rigid backyard kiddie pools, and #2 plastic trash containers.

White block foam used in packaging and rigid foam insulation is also accepted.

Please note that these “hard-to-recycle” plastics should never, ever go to the recycling drop-off center or be tossed in the single-stream recycle bin. (For detailed guidelines and fees, visit:  www.ecocycle.org/charm. To download a detailed brochure, go to: here.

Unfortunately, plastic items not mentioned here, such as plastic coated coffee cups and polystyrene food containers, must go to the landfill.

That’s a shame and perhaps a good reminder to check to see whether that plastic product you’re thinking about buying is recyclable or made from recycled plastic. If not, you might want to look for a better option. Remember that just because a product has a recycling symbol on it, it doesn’t mean it’s recyclable.

You can know whether it’s recyclable by checking the guidelines. When in doubt, give us a shout! Call Eco-Cycle at (303) 444-6634.

And one more insider’s tip: Check my column next month or Eco-Cycle’s website for news about new plastics that will be accepted at the Boulder County Recycling Center starting on October 1st!

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