Orland Park residents have diverted nearly a quarter of the village’s trash away from landfills under the village’s recycling program.
Waste Management representative Mike Morley deemed that to be good progress when he updated the Village Board’s Public Works Committee on the village’s recycling program last week, but gave some do’s and don’ts to not contaminate recyclables with other garbage.
The municipal marketing manager for Waste Management, Morley praised residents for their 85 percent participation rate in recycling efforts. He noted that 5,462 tons of recyclables were collected in 2013, when the village began picking up recycling weekly, rather than every two weeks. In 2014, that number rose to 5,625 tons.
“That’s roughly an equivalent of 32.5 trucks,” Morley said. “That’s good progress from the village residents. That gives you a diversion rate of about 24 percent.”
For the first nine months of 2015, about 4,025 tons have been collected, he added.
A Waste Management slogan of “recycle often, recycle right,” is increasingly important because although the total waste stream has fallen since 2005, easily recyclable types of trash are falling compared to those impossible to recycle.
Factors such as a reduction in newspaper readership with the advent of the Internet, the low price of petroleum and changes in packaging of consumable goods have all contributed to a drop in refuse production since 2005. Prior to that, the numbers had been increasing annually since 1960, he said.
“I just want to pound away at that message,” he said, offering three pieces of advice to residents who want to recycle effectively. These include recycling all empty bottles, cans and paper, and keeping food and liquids out of recycling containers.
Morley said that 16 percent of the materials collected in recycling containers are contaminated with food and liquids.
He said the third, and perhaps most important piece of advice, is to keep plastic bags out of recycling containers as well because the plastic get caught in machinery and are costly to remove.
Morley said glass bottles, metal cans and paper are highly recyclable. But because recycling material is measured in weight, rather than volume, the switch to lighter, individualized packaging, more is needed to turn a profit.
For instance, he said, light plastic jars are replacing glass, and pet food, juices and other products that used to be sold in cans are often now packaged in light plastic film bags.
“Convenience is trumping sustainability,” said Morley, pointing out that material recovery facilities were built roughly 20 years ago, when 80 percent of recyclables were paper and cardboard, and 20 percent was “everything else.”
“We need a lot more of those film packages and plastic jars to make any money recycling them,” he said.
Also, he said that low petroleum costs have resulted in the market for recycled plastics in countries like China being reduced because they can make their own products.
And as the stream changes, the stuff that is really not recyclable or hard to recycle is making up a greater percentage of what is coming through.”
“I would imagine for your average recycling family that the most confusing thing is you get pounded by the media about the alleged virtues of plastic bags versus paper, yet you’ve got to keep them out of the recycling,” Trustee James Dodge said. “It’s got to be completely counterintuitive to people not close to those details.”
Morley agreed, and suggested that the best way to dispose of the plastic bags is to bring them back to the grocery stores that collect them.