The Problem with Recycling Contamination

The following article first appeared in CBC News ,  April 06 2018 

The average recycling contamination rate is 25%, or 1 in 4 items. Total scrap plastic exports have declined by 40% in the last year (2018), and recycling levels haven’t improved in the U.S. in 20 years.

The executive vice-president of Canada Fibers, which sorts about 60 per cent of the curbside recycling in Ontario, has said even a small amount of yogurt or peanut butter left in a container can sometimes contaminate an entire tonne of paper, making it destined for the dump. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Recently, contamination has become an even bigger issue because China, the world’s biggest importer of recyclable material, started banning imports of paper with more than 0.5 per cent contamination — a standard that North American cities are struggling to meet.

“Something as simple as a piece of paper with a coffee stain on it…today that’s actually garbage,” according to the general manager of waste management.

We (Singular Solutions) think that recycling is an important step into a green future, but more needs to be done. It’s just too easy for a consumer to forget that coated paper coffee cups aren’t recyclable, or that even specific recyclable plastics need to go to special plants as it is with most plastics above #2.

Biodegradable and compostable products don’t need to be thoroughly cleaned and washed, or thrown out when contaminated with food. And, although bioplastics cannot replace all plastics as of right now, pushing for bioplastics to be used will further research and reduce the amount of unnecessary wastes in landfills