Rochester recycling program has rough first week

May 17, 2020

ROCHESTER — The first week of a state-funded program to monitor recycling practices in town showed that recyclers have a lot of learning to do. 

Marcia Kessler, who secured funding for Rochester’s “recycling IQ program,” says that 90% of the carts that were inspected the first week contained material that should not be put in recycling bins.

In the first few weeks of the program, such carts are being tagged for residents’ information but not rejected by the town’s waste contractor. In time, they will be rejected.

State regulations require that recyclables in bins containing improper material — such as electrical cords, food waste or non-recyclable plastics that clog recycling machinery — cannot be recycled, nor can they be handled as regular waste. The cost of trucking such contaminated recycling to an out-of-state facility will eventually be borne by taxpayers. 

The grant included money for multiple mailings to inform residents about the program and about can and can’t be recycled. Beginning May 15, grant-funded cart checkers started looking at the first few inches of 250 carts to see if they contain items that cannot be recycled.

As checkers get faster, they will cover more houses. If there are only a few non recyclable items visible, and families have room in their trash bins, they can checkers will move a few things over. If the problem is more extensive, they tag the carts to indicate the problem.

Common non recyclable items included Styrofoam, cartons for juice, almond milk and other liquids, plastic bags, pill bottles, wire hangers, rope, string, fabric, fishing line, aerosol cans, and lawn furniture. 

Kessler said that the only things that should be recycled are types 1 and 2 plastic, paper, cardboard, metal and glass of all colors. 

“If we educate people well enough they will see that it’s actually easier” to recycle properly, because there are relatively few things that are actually recyclable, Kessler said. 

She added that the town’s goal is not to punish residents with fines or nasty letters, but just to have them learn so the town can save money that would be spent on fees. 

ABC Waste Disposal will start rejecting carts on June 5.