NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Recycling practices vary among different communities and knowing how your local facility works could save everyone a lot of time, resources and effort.
Off Highway 421, New Hanover County recycling center receives recyclable materials from three counties: New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick.
For residents of these counties, there is no need to separate recyclable materials, as the area’s facility is equipped to separate the materials itself.
Joe Suleyman, director of environmental management for New Hanover County, shared several tips that could help both residents and recycling employees save a lot of time.
You don’t have to wash recyclable materials
This may come as a shock to some people, or may even feel wrong to toss a jar of peanut butter still lined with material. Thanks to modern technology, residents in New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender Counties have no need to spend time washing recyclable material before placing it in their household bins.
Suleyman said the time and water used cleaning the materials is wasting more resources than necessary.
Plastic materials end up flaked, or shredded into tiny pieces. The entire mixture of pieces goes through an intensive washing process at a separate facility.
Keep the bottle caps and lids on
Because different grades of flaked plastic float at varying levels, there is no need to organize plastics by type.
Conscientious residents may think to separate bottle caps or container lids before tossing in the recycling, but it turns out in New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender, this action is unnecessary. In fact, it may even negatively contribute to the entire recycling process.
Leftover material from bottles, cans or containers has the potential to contaminate the recyclable objects around it. So keep the caps and lids on and don’t worry about cleaning them beforehand.
Don’t place plastic bags in your recycling bin
Plastic bags are Suleyman’s number one enemy. They can get stuck in the recycling facility’s machinery and cause a number of problems at the landfill, where they eventually end up.
“As soon as you put that plastic bag in the recycling, it’s going to be mixed with everything else,” Suleyman said. “Then nobody wants it because then they have to spend more than the bag is worth to clean it up.”
The recycling facility must remove all contaminated plastic bags to be discarded.
“We haul 240 tons a month of plastic bags to the landfill,” Suleyman said. “That’s basically like an entire day of production a month set aside for plastic bags.”
Instead of attempting to recycle plastic bags through residential recycling bins, Suleyman says residents can drop off their dry, uncontaminated bags to local grocery stores.
Residents can look out for Harris Teeter, Food Lion, Whole Foods, Lowes Foods or other locations that explicitly accept plastic bag or film materials to ensure it becomes recycled.
Johanna Ferebee can be reached at email@example.com or @j__ferebee on Twitter