Tips on how to get the most out of your recycling

They are words we hear all the time – reduce, reuse, recycle.

Recycling has continued to grow as technology has advanced. We are able to recycle many more materials today than in years past.

But are you getting the most out of that curbside bin? Or maybe the question should be…

Is that bin getting the most out of you?

People have been recycling in Michiana for many years. What started with just newspaper and glass has expanded to include a multitude of items that we use every day. But are you recycling everything that you can?
First of all, here is a review of what you can put in your bin.

“We can take a wide range of plastics, newspaper, cardboard, food cans, any kind of items like that,” said Randy Przybysz of the Solid Waste Management District.

Nearly any cardboard or paper item can be recycled, including magazines – an item that had not been allowed in the past.

Many food storage items are recyclable as well, such as aluminum foil, food wrappers and pizza boxes as long as they are not too dirty.

“We ask like jars and pop cans, just rinse them quick just to get that residual out,” said Przybysz.

As far as plastics, most everything is recyclable. Just look for the little triangle on the bottom. The only number that can’t be put in your bin is number six. That includes Styrofoam and many of the hard plastic lids that you would find on soda bottles, milk jugs and shampoo and detergent bottles.

So, with bigger bins and the ability to recycle more and more materials, do the numbers of people using the program increase?

“Right now, here recently, it’s been running at about a 52 percent participation rate in a given snapshot of a month or week,” said Przybysz. “What we would like to see is more people using the program.”

That would increase the positive impact the program could have on the environment.

“We have been averaging the last several years roughly 30 million pounds coming through on an annual basis of recycle material,” said Przybysz. “That’s great. But, if you figure that it’s running at about 52 percent usage rate on a given collection day, on average, we could double that. And that’s material that is not going to end up in a landfill. That can be reused and turned into something else.”

That just about sums up the curbside program, but what about electronics and chemicals? Well, they have a place to go as well. The household hazardous waste facility in Mishawaka will handle many of those specialty items.

“Paints, any type of flammable material, old gasoline, used motor oil, fluorescent bulbs, any kind of mercury-containing items at all, pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, all that kind of thing,” said Przybysz. “We also take any kind of old electronics. So computers, or anything that makes a computer work, the mouse, the printers, that kind of thing.”

And don’t worry about the cost.

“Anything that people can bring there is free,” he said. “There is no charge. Except for tires. Tires are a dollar a tire or two dollars if they are on a rim.”

Recycling programs differ from county to county, and even for different cities or townships within a county. If you are not sure about a certain item, contact your local recycling program.

And, since many of those programs do not accept Styrofoam, here are some places where you can drop it off.

Notre Dame
(Behind the St. Michael’s Laundry Facility on the “old” Douglas Rd) They will also take the plastic caps from soda bottles, milk jugs, etc.

Nature's Wood Products
54693 CR 17
Elkhart, IN 46516
Phone: (574) 848-1900
Drop off clean styrofoam packaging materials in a box or bag (so foam does not blow away). Recycled styrofoam will be remade into insulating foam board for home insulation by Corning.The company will provide large poly bags for the collection of Expanded Polystyrene and regularly scheduled pick-ups of the material. Also accept cardboard.

Green Stream Company
Hours: 7am-2:30pm
Phone: (574) 296-8000
Address: 54722 Chelsea Ct., Elkhart, IN 46516
Drop off services available for cardboard, plastic packaging, expanded polystyrene (styrofoam molded packaging), wood pallets.
Offer industrial business pick up services.

We have a link to Nature's Wood Products and the Notre Dame recycling location on the Big Red Bar at the WNDU homepage.

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