In recent months, you’ve likely heard conflicting news reports and uncertainty about the future of recycling. While the state of recycling is changing around the world, we wanted to make sure you had accurate and up-to-date information about recycling efforts in Kent County. Read on for answers to common myths about recycling and our approach to helping residents recycle.

Myth: Recycling is a scam – most materials end up the landfill.

Many people don’t know where their curbside recyclables end up after they place their bin on the street. Here in Kent County, we are committed to making sure that all recyclable material delivered to the Kent County Recycling & Education Center does not end up in a landfill or the county’s Waste to Energy facility. In some cases, a waste hauler may determine that a truckload of recyclable material is too soiled or contaminated to be accepted and processed at our facility. Unfortunately, when that happens, that waste hauler will take that material to the Waste to Energy facility or a landfill. In rare instances, there also may be times when the Recycling and Education Center has to be shut down to install new equipment or make needed repairs and, without another processor, the recyclables must be either held or diverted.

Myth: Recycling should be free.

There are many benefits to recycling and many people assume recycling is free or should be free because of the value of materials being processed and sold. However, selling the processed paper, glass, aluminum, plastic is all subject to changes in the market. The value of the materials rarely covers the cost to collect and process the recyclables. However, the benefits of recycling and conserving resources go much further than dollars and cents. It’s critical for our future to recycle and we encourage residents to talk to their waste haulers about adding recycling services to their waste management plans if they aren’t recycling already. Paying to recycle is an investment in the future of our environment and community.

Myth: Recycling is not energy efficient.

Some people may say recycling isn’t good for the planet because it takes energy to collect, haul and process recycling. However, the opposite is true. Recycling is energy efficient because, in most instances, it takes less energy to repurpose items into something new. For some natural resources that are non-renewable, we can’t afford not to recycle them because there is a finite amount of them on Earth. From aluminum cans to paper to plastic, many of these materials take less energy to repurpose than creating them from scratch.

Myth: Everything placed in a recycling bin can be recycled.

While people have good intentions to recycle by tossing bottles, jars, cans and papers in the recycling bin, not everything can be recycled, especially if something is coated with food or attached to something non-recyclable. Things like packaging foam, hoses, greasy pizza boxes and goopy, uncleaned peanut butter jars can’t be recycled.

We encourage recyclers to toss clean recyclables in their recycling bins – which means rinsing or scraping out ketchup bottles and yogurt containers before recycling. For a list of things that can be recycled in Kent County, visit our comprehensive recycling guide: reimaginetrash.org/recycle/recycle-guide.

Myth: We should stop recycling until commodity prices bounce back.

Due to their proximity to shipping ports, parts of the United States relied on China and other global market outlets to send recyclables. But in 2018, China imposed strict new rules on imports of recyclables, largely due to high levels of unrecyclable trash being mixed in. The restrictions on exporting recyclables didn’t directly impact Kent County’s ability to get recyclables into markets, but it did impact the revenue we get since domestic markets are flooded with material. While this is challenging communities across the United States and even raising rates here in Michigan, Kent County is committed to doing its part by finding new long-term solutions to continue our recycling programs. Despite increasing costs, both to recyclers and processors, like Kent County, we encourage residents to join us in making the investment in recycling because it has a significant positive impact on our environment and reduces the amount of waste going into landfills.

Recent articles you’ve read may provide different information than what we’ve shared here. There is no one-size-fits-all news story that can reflect accurately what the local conditions and situations are. Please rely on what is shared at the local level as the best source of recycling and waste information that is true for our community.

Recycling is essential to protecting our community and the environment for generations to come. Hopefully we have clarified a few common recycling myths and convinced you to either keep or start recycling. As always, if you have questions about recycling or waste services, please contact us today.