Column: What you ought to place in the blue recycling bin


You stopped at a coffee shop, got a cup of Joe to go, then went dwelling and grabbed a yogurt out of the fridge.

Now you are performed, and the query is this:

Do the empty containers go into the trash bin or the blue recycling bin?

Hold on, mainly because I’m going to inform you the answer if you do not currently know it. But initial, here’s an additional query:

You get a takeout meal that comes in a cardboard container with a plastic lid and plastic utensils. You also get a juice box to go, and your order is placed into a plastic bag.

Do all the empties, and the bag, go into the blue bin?

I have some answers for you, mainly because I saved up all my possible recyclables for two weeks and, rather of parking them curbside, took them straight to the Athens Solutions Material Recovery Facility in Sun Valley, which receives about 1-seventh of the recyclables picked up by the L.A. Sanitation Division.

When I was saving my discards, The Occasions had two stories about what has develop into a national recycling crisis. A single, by Alex Wigglesworth, was about the collapse of the beverage container recycling marketplace, which is a blow to low-earnings people today who make a handful of bucks at redemption centers.

The other story, by Piper McDaniel, was about recyclable components piling up in the United States, due in significant portion to reduced costs and demand from China, which for years was the main purchaser of our waste.

And all this is taking place as our consumptive habits need additional goods, additional packaging, additional waste.

The marketplace for our discards is down, but we’re generating additional of it than ever, stated Enrique Zaldivar, the Sanitation Department’s common manager.

Zaldivar stated his division is attempting to far better educate buyers about what can go in the blue bin and also to create prospects for our recycling waste in Mexico, Canada and the United States, provided the dried-up marketplace in Asia.

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But there’s some thing we all require to take into account about our personal function in the present crisis. Our immediate gratification requires lead to additional shipping from Amazon and other suppliers, and conservation is not portion of the equation. You can order a pair of toenail clippers that lands on your doorstep in two or 3 boxes huge adequate to match a smaller youngster inside, along with bubble wrap and perhaps some package strapping.

We’ve been lulled into believing that practically anything we get at the grocery retailer and Target and Walmart is recyclable.

Mark Murray, Californians Against Waste

Columnist Steve Lopez

At Athens Sun Valley Material Recovery Facility, columnist Steve Lopez brings two weeks of his collected recycling to see what he’s undertaking suitable and incorrect. He is met by Johnny Stevenson, assistant common manager of Athens Solutions.

(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Occasions)

Mark Murray of Californians Against Waste stated plastic packaging is produced from all-natural gas and petroleum merchandise, and mainly because the cost of oil is low, it is less expensive to mass-generate that stuff. If you have gone buying lately, you know that you require a chain saw and possibly some smaller explosives to extract a pair of garden shears or a set of headphones from all the shrink wrap and flesh-carving molded plastic.

And a lot of that packaging will never ever be repurposed.

“We’ve been lulled into believing that practically anything we get at the grocery retailer and Target and Walmart is recyclable,” stated Murray.

And the truth is that “reducing” (shopping for a Thermos rather of a thousand water bottles) and “reusing” (taking the exact same bags to the marketplace once more and once more) are far better for the atmosphere than “recycling.” A lot of “recyclable” waste ends up in landfills either in the U.S. or in China, Indonesia or the Philippines, and some of it is not adequately disposed of.

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“It’s dumped in estuaries and rivers and eventually ends up floating into bays and oceans as plastic pollution, and a goodly quantity of it is ours,” stated Murray.

He stated two bills pending in Sacramento would aid address the recycling crisis. A single would need packaging producers to make all plastic components recyclable. The other would need plastic beverage containers to be produced from recycled material — which would aid make certain a marketplace for all that recycled plastic. And we can all make a distinction by recognizing wasteful packaging and boycotting specific merchandise till the makers and sellers get it suitable.

For the most portion, it is secure to assume that the most recyclable merchandise are nevertheless paper, glass, aluminum and steel, along with larger excellent plastics like these located in beverage containers. Even so, there have been several occasions when I stood in my kitchen with a disposable item and paused more than no matter if to place it into trash or recycling.

Johnny Stevenson, assistant common manager at the Athens plant in Sun Valley, stated about 900 tons of blue bin components arrive at that facility each and every day. And prospects have a tendency to get it suitable. Stevenson stated about 80% of the material is deemed recyclable and 20% gets separated out by automated sorters or by human hand and sent to landfill.

It is not good that a fifth of what we send to recycling is not usable, but it is not as undesirable as I anticipated. And what it says to me is that rather of providing up on recycling, as some have recommended we ought to, we require to get far better at it.

“We’re attempting to do anything we can to stay clear of sending factors to landfill,” stated Stevenson.

But some prospects make that tough, according to L.A. Sanitation workers Littleton T. Gardner IV and Jose Alonso. In their jobs, they peer into the blue bins at curbside and educate residents on dos and don’ts, and they take their presentation to schools and other places also.

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Gardner stated he has located the following things in blue bins:

“Carpet, clothes, footwear, yard waste, dirty diapers, concrete.”

OK, that is a person who’s not even attempting.

Alonso stated he, also, has located “a lot of diapers,” along with “garden hoses and soiled hygienic paper that ought to go in the toilet.”


I did far better than that. Pretty much anything in my 4 bags of recycling was acceptable. Newspapers, magazines, cardboard, mail, beer bottles, tomato cans, aluminum cans, wine bottles, empty yogurt cups and the foil lids. As extended as there are no fluids in your containers, and components are clean and dry, you are quite secure.

With some exceptions.

The paper cup from a well-known coffee chain is not recyclable, in present markets, mainly because of the filmy wax inside. But the cardboard sleeve and plastic lid are recyclable. And so are the plastic cups that cold beverages are served in. What wasn’t recyclable?

A single factor that complicates matters is that the marketplace modifications from month to month, Stevenson stated. At the moment, Athens does not have a purchaser for plastic bags, nor for milk and juice cartons with waxy-filmy material and plastic spouts. So Athens is sending these things to landfill at the moment, But the facility says it has lined up prospects for each merchandise in the close to future.

My dog’s kibble bag will finish up in landfill, Stevenson stated, mainly because there’s no purchaser for the filmy coating on the bag. Plastic utensils go straight to landfill, also. Correct now, so does Styrofoam and bubble wrap.

The cardboard bowls from my Blossom restaurant takeout have been acceptable, but the plastic lids weren’t. My takeout containers from a favored haunt — Los Tacos in West Hollywood — have been not acceptable mainly because of some bean and cheese residue.

I guess I’m going to have to lick the containers clean subsequent time.

In the name of conservation.