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Mixed plastics no longer recyclable

News from Lake County Solid Waste

The turmoil in the plastics recycling world has finally reached Lake County. Effective immediately Lake County will no longer be able to accept Mixed Plastics (#3-7, food trays, etc.) The only acceptable and marketable plastics we can take are #1 PETE bottles and #2 HDPE bottles.  

There are many factors behind this change, but essentially when the U.S. (the world really) sent its plastics and other recyclables to China for sorting and recycling, much of that material was contaminated with garbage (e.g. dirty diapers) or so poorly sorted that it could not be processed. China put restrictions in place that limit what materials they will accept. The restrictions reduced allowable contamination to nearly zero. Therefore, Lake County cannot recycle Mixed Plastics as we have been and all the materials we do recycle must be free of contaminants.

The first step in sorting your plastics should be – is it a bottle? If it is not a bottle, (screw top with an opening smaller than the body) then it goes in the trash. If it is a bottle, look on the bottom and see if it is a #1 or #2. Anything other than a #1 or a #2, it goes into the trash. When in doubt, throw it out.

Next, you can sort what is left into #1’s and #2’s. The #1’s are usually water or pop bottles. You can sort your #2’s even further into translucent milk jugs or colored jugs and bottles like shampoo and laundry detergent. We have individual bins for milk jugs and for colored #2 HDPE bottles. Separated milk jugs are worth more to the program than if mixed with the colored #2 HDPE material.

Please do not put anything in the bins that does not belong there or is not sorted correctly. The current rules for recycling plastics and even paper do not allow for any contaminant. Contaminated bins and bales will most likely end up in a landfill somewhere, wasting your efforts and good work, and costing the county more money.  We are sorry for this inconvenience, but appreciate your assistance in continuing our program through proper sorting and reduced contamination.

Call our office at 406-883-7323, if you have questions.

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