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Recycling Part I - what's acceptable, what's not

Part I is a study in where we are now in Adair County, KY. It will be followed by more articles with this title as we explore how we can improve the situation. The Recycling Center, located on Service Road, Columbia and can take paper, newspaper, cardboard, aluminum cans, and some plastics, including bottles for detergent, condiments, and drinks - rinsed clean and separated in advance.

By Rebecca Montgomery

The Adair County Recycling Center has reopened this month after a prolonged closure due to COVID-19. From 7:30am-3pmCT on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, employees are available to help patrons unload.

The recycling center accepts paper, newspaper, cardboard, aluminum cans, and household plastics such as detergent, drink, and condiment bottles. The center does not accept glass.

Materials should be separated (bags of plastic kept separate from bags of aluminum, for example) and all items containing food or drink residue should be emptied and rinsed.

Recyclables that are contaminated - when they are mixed with cigarette butts, spilled drink bottles, and other unsanitary items - are just garbage. The recycling center must pay to throw the unacceptable items away. This kind of contamination is especially dangerous in a time of a pandemic, and is why the recycling center had to cease operation earlier this year.

Common objects people mistake as recyclable include plastic grocery bags (which can be brought to collection bins at Walmart instead) and padded envelopes.

Containers that hold hazardous chemicals like Drain-o, antifreeze, or motor oil are not accepted, and similarly electronics and household hazardous wastes such as batteries, light bulbs, and ink cartridges are beyond the recycling center's capacity. However, Adair County Solid Waste Coordinator Bridget Compton hopes to obtain grants that would allow the county to host a one-time recycling event for electronics and household hazardous wastes some time this year, as they have in the past.

Our recycling center operates as a transfer station, where recyclables are sorted, baled, and then sold to an outside company for further processing. A new recycling company was just contracted by the recycling center at the beginning of 2020, so exact specifications about what's accepted and what isn't are still being clarified.

Like many businesses and offices that are beginning to reopen, the recycling center will not be operating at full capacity just yet. While the center usually relies on inmate labor from the regional jail, the work release program has been halted during the pandemic. This has cut the recycling center's sorting staff by 75%, leaving just one employee, armed with PPE, to sort through all the recyclables that arrive.

Writer Rebecca Montgomery is a Class of 2020 graduate of Allegheny College with a degree in Environmental Science & Biology. She is a graduate of Adair County High School.

This story was posted on 2020-06-09 06:17:09
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