By Cathy Hamilton-Wissmer, Joint Base Lewis-McChord Directorate of Public WorksDecember 12, 2019
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- There is a lot of confusion about what is recyclable right now. So why recycle right?
"Simply put, it matters," said Tammy Shoop, Joint Base Lewis-McChord's recycling coordinator. "JBLM is working with other cities to simplify the (recycling) messaging. Too many items end up in the wrong container."
Shoop said if it contains food with a lid still on it or liquid inside of it, it needs to go in the garbage. Dirty or wet items are not recyclable and may spoil other items in your bin. Be sure to empty out liquids and rinse or wipe out food residue.
Where does JBLM recycling go? Commingled recycling collected by Waste Connections on JBLM is sorted at the Pioneer Recycling plant in Frederickson.
This large warehouse is staffed by 88 employees, who work two shifts a day, five days a week, according to James Dawson, Pioneer recycling plant manager.
"We gather materials from a large area including Pierce, Thurston, and Mason counties as well as Canada and Alaska," Dawson said. "Around 280 tons of commingled recycling comes across the floor daily."
Staff sort and toss any garbage that may have been included in the commingled containers. Dawson said commonly found items that don't belong in recycling are plastic bags, dirty diapers, shredded paper, prescription bottles and other garbage.
"Batteries in the trash cause lots of fires in recycling plants across the country," Dawson said. "Needles, of any kind, are very harmful to employees."
Never put needles in your recycling cart. Needles need to be disposed of as biohazard at a transfer station. Rechargeable and button batteries contain heavy metals and can be recycled at the household hazardous waste drop off locations.
Once sorted, the recyclables are baled, sold and turned into new products. Recent dips in the secondary market have had big impacts on the ability to sell recyclable items.
Many countries that import recyclables have a low-to-no tolerance for dirty or improperly sorted items.
Dawson said Pioneer has to ensure the recyclable items are clean before someone will buy it.
"Aluminum stays in the USA, cardboard processing is relatively local-destined for mills in Oregon, and some plastic bottles go to Canada or overseas," Dawson said. "China will buy plastic pellets, but it must be pristine."
Wishful recycling is the term used when things are tossed in the commingle container with the thought, "Well, it's made of materials that should be recyclable, maybe there's a market for that." Items such as aluminum foil, plastic cups or clam shell containers that hold spinach or apples, shredded paper are not recyclable.
"Right now it's important to collect quality over quantity, and focus on clean recyclables." Shoop said, "A few reminders when recycling: 'Empty, Clean and Dry.' It matters. Or 'When in doubt, throw it out.'"
JBLM recycling centers accept drop-off recycling, including those items that cannot be recycled in curbside bins due to size or type of material. The drop-off centers are located in Building 5290 on Lewis Main and Building 516 on McChord Field. Both are open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. Both are closed for federal holidays.
Other drop-off locations for plastic bags, batteries, paint and household hazardous waste are located at local landfills and transfer stations off base. Search for your closest local county solid waste website for details.
Know before you throw on JBLM. When in doubt, visit the JBLM Environmental Guidebook and recycling website at https://home.army.mil/lewis-mcchord/index.php/my-Joint-Base-Lewis-Mcchord/all-services/public_works-environmental_division/recycling.
If you are unsure of how to dispose of an item, email JBLM recycling coordinators or for more information, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.