Commingled Recycling System Described

 

Cities and counties in Oregon (with populations over 4,000) are required by state law to provide all curbside garbage customers and transfer station users with the opportunity to recycle. Outside the urban growth boundaries of these cities, no law or regulation system requires that recycling services are provided along with curbside garbage service. Lane County transfer stations provide convenient recycling drop-off for all rural areas. Here is a list of what we accept.   If you would like curbside services, click the first item on the left side bar for a list of service providers and their contact information.


Lane County does not offer curbside collection services for residents or businesses. We provide this information about commingled recycling as a service to our customers and to help all citizens become educated about how to "recycle it all and recycle it right!" 
 

 IMPORTANT NOTE: not all garbage and recycling haulers in Lane County are collecting commingled recycling materials. Be sure to ask and follow instructions from YOUR garbage and recycling hauler. Phone numbers available in left hand sidebar.

 

To "Recycle it All"  at the curb is just not possible.
Automated commingled collection has been extremely successful at increasing the number of people who recycle and reduce injuries and pollution on collection routes.  However, the automated system that sorts the recycling into separate categories again is damaged and fails when plastic bags or other incorrect items are placed in the bin. As much as 15% of the materials correctly placed in curbside recycling can end up being sent to the wrong facility where it will be trashed because of our wishful recycling at the curb. 

Please! NO plastic bags and NOTHING but those items listed as acceptable should go in curbside recycling. Wishful Recycling does not work!

Handy tips on how to "Recycle it Right" with curbside commingling:  

  • Remove food and all other debris. Pizza boxes should be trashed unless grease and food contamination is cut off and removed! 

  • For plastics, ONLY include bottles, tubs, jugs and jars! No other shape.  

  • Keep GLASS OUT of the commingled recycling.

  • Keep plastic bags OUT of the commingled materials. View  video message. 

  • Small or flat Aluminum trays/foil should be wadded into a large ball so as not to be mistaken for papers by the sorting machinery.  

  • Do not flatten items: keep tin cans, plastics and cartons in their original  shape (see why below)

  • Do not nest materials within unlike materials (ie. a tin can inside a cereal box) 

IF IN DOUBT LEAVE IT OUT !  Click here for Where to Recycle What Can't Go Curbside and Tips on how to "Recycle it All" beyond the bin. 

Contamination at the curb causes sorting technology to fail.
For most, it's a well-intentioned desire to recycle as much as possible; we toss it in with the hope that someone will sort it out.  But it causes significant problems for commingled recycling systems when we put incorrect items in the curbside rollcarts. Though carts are big enough to hold everything, there are good reasons why only certain items are allowed and why glass must be kept separate.

Here's how it works
Mixed material collected at the curb is delivered to a Material Recovery Facility, or MRF (pronounced "murf"), where it is sorted and separated through a combination of automated and hand sorting processes. Here is a video of this process at SP Recycling, one of the 5 facilities that process most of Oregon's curbside materials.

After some hand picking of large materials (belts moving 45 ft. per minute!), mixed material travels upward along a conveyor belt called a star screen. It is made of hard rubber wheels spaced just far enough apart to allow bottles and cans fall through while pushing flat cardboard and paper up to another system of separation. Click here for photo description of this process.

Clogged Machines

When wishful recyclers put incorrect items in their bin, this sorting system quickly fails. The photo above shows how bags get wound around the machinery, filling the openings in the screens and making it impossible for milk jugs, plastic bottles and cans to fall through and be separated from the papers. With the flexible plastics and cords clogging the screen like this, the cans and bottles end up being baled with the paper and this has become a huge problem for paper plants in the Pacific Northwest.

That’s why plastic bags--or any flexible or flat plastics--should NOT be thrown in your curbside cart. The same is true for cords, Christmas lights, clothing, hoses, etc.  Please make a firm commitment to keep bags and other flat or flexible plastics OUT of commingled recycling carts (glass too) and tell everyone you know!


Recyclables become trash when sent to wrong facility
Another problem for commingled sorting is when dimensional materials like tin cans or beverage cans and bottles are flattened. Since the sorting mechanics depend on the dimensional shape to sort different items, flattened items are more likely to stay with the paper and end up as a contaminant in the paper sold to paper mills.  Since curbside haulers must do some compaction in their trucks, it's important that we do not flatten tin and plastic containers--and avoid "nesting" cans or bottles inside paper boxes. THANKS!