Recycling Changes Begin July 1st for McIntire Recycling Center
What changes are happening?
Beginning July 1st, the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority, the organization that runs both the McIntire Recycling Center the Ivy Materials Utilization Facility, will stop accepting #3-7 plastics for recycling. They will still accept rigid plastics #1s and #2s, but ask that they be placed in separate bins at the Center.
Generally speaking, #1 plastics are soft drink bottles, water bottles, some plastic clamshells containing fruit, etc. Generally speaking, #2 plastics are milk jugs, laundry detergent containers, shampoo bottles, cleaning agent bottles, etc.
If you have curbside pick up in the City of Charlottesville or in Albemarle County, there are no changes to your plastic recycling at this time, but continue to be mindful of recycling properly so your plastics have a chance at a new life!
NOTE: It’s worth mentioning that the recycling symbol with the number inside that is listed on plastic bottles and other rigid plastics DOES NOT necessarily mean that it is recyclable, it only denotes what type of material the plastic is. #1 is PETE and #2 is HDPE.
Why the changes?
The changes are occurring for a couple of reasons. According to representatives of RSWA interviewed in this Charlottesville Tomorrow article, the lack of a viable domestic market for recyclable materials makes continued recycling financially difficult. Recycling is a commodity-based, profit-driven industry, meaning that there must be a market for the materials.
Previously, the majority of plastic waste had been shipped to China for processing, but policymakers there have concerns with the volume of waste flowing into their country and have dramatically restricted imports (known as China’s “Green Fence”). In 2018, China imported less than 1% of their 2016 total volume, as quoted by NPR. You can read our blog on local perspectives on this topic here.
Which brings us to the second reason for the change: contamination! “Wishcycling” is an increasing problem for recycling providers everywhere. In our eagerness to recycle, we can actually be causing problems for the system. So please remember that if we want to actually reuse these materials, they need to be clean and dry and sorted properly. The golden rule of recycling is, “when in doubt, throw it out.” We know that can be hard to swallow, as avid recycler ourselves, but it’s crucial.
Phil McKalips, Director of the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority, commented, “What we’re trying to do is to ‘clean’ up or recyclable materials so that they can go to a higher and better value. Our recycling won’t be reduced, just hoping we can improve the value of the products.”
Three Tips for Your Recycling Routine
1- Read, Clean and Sort!
Look for the 1s and 2s symbol on the bottom of your plastic material and sort accordingly. Also, remember that McIntire will take flexible plastics like grocery bags, dry cleaner bags, bread and sandwich bags, and toilet paper wrapping if it clean and dry. If you have curbside recycling, check with your hauler to learn if these items are accepted - in many cases they are not.
If you cannot identify the plastic number, don’t take it to the McIntire facility. As far as we know, the City curbside recycling program, County Waste, and Time Disposal will still be taking 3s through 7 rigid plastic. However, we recommend doing what you can to eliminate purchasing products using those plastics if possible.
2- Keep Reducing by Reusing
It turns out that a lot of #5 and #6 plastics are single-use items used for convenience. We live fast paced lives, and when we are on the run it can seem like quick plastic and styrofoam containers are the only option. So we recommend keeping a metal straw, fork, knife, and spoon in your purse, backpack, or car at all times. Then, even when you’re carrying out a coffee or salad, it is just as easy to skip the plastic. Wash them with your dinner dishes and replace them the next day.
Unfortunately, some area restaurants, convenience stores, and smoothie shops use styrofoam cups (a #6 PS, which stands for polystyrene). The best way to eliminate styrofoam from your life is to bring your own. So keep your reusable water and mugs handy at all times!
Same goes for your reusable shopping bags. Keep them in the trunk of your car or buy a collapsible one to keep in your backpack or purse (if you’re having trouble remembering them like we sometimes do). The good news is if you have a bag of plastic bags at home like so many households do, grocery bags are #4 plastic and can be thrown into the bin at McIntire as long as they are clean and dry.
We realize eliminating all of these plastics from your daily life can be difficult in today’s world, but every action counts. With consumer advocacy efforts like the alternative straw movement, it’s becoming even easier to make sustainable changes in your life.
3- Get Creative!
You never know what a little plastic bag or box could be useful for. Turn plastic containers into little flower pots, store grocery bags away for dog walks, and if you think of something else original, comment below to share it with others!
Remember to stay earthy, be positive, and don’t let new recycling changes deter you from living a sustainable lifestyle.