Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Journey of the Recyclables, Part 3 or 4

Sometimes, if you're unlucky, you can pull out of the borough parking garage next to the public library just in time to be trapped by a truck loading recyclables.

When this happened last week, I decided to make the best of the bad luck and inquire about where the recyclables go. The driver said the foodwaste and plastics were being burned for energy, which sounded questionable, so I later called up Waste Management and eventually was able to get the low down.

Waste Management picks up recyclables from Princeton's public schools and various businesses in town. Plastics 1-7, paper, etc. go to sorting plants in Philadelphia or Newark. A lot of the cardboard is then shipped overseas, probably to make new boxes for all the products headed our way. I asked if there are any particular contaminants that cause problems in the recycling stream, and was told that grease/food on the paper and plastic was not good. (That's why it's important not to recycle the grease-stained portion of pizza boxes, which can either go in the trash or get composted with your foodscraps in the backyard or as part of the township's curbside foodwaste recycling program.) Little bottle tops are not a problem. For foodwaste, which is trucked all the way to the Peninsula Compost plant in Wilmington, Delaware, glass is the main contaminant, since it can't be easily filtered out of the final product.

Princeton's trash, or at least Waste Management's portion of it, heads to a landfill in Tulleytown, PA, 20 miles from us, just past Trenton. Best I can tell from google maps, the landfill has a splendid view of the Delaware River. Waste Management is proud of its closed Patterson Avenue Landfill in Hamilton Township, which is now a wildlife refuge.

As for the driver's mention of using recyclables to generate energy, they have a waste-to-energy plant in south Jersey, but it's for burning trash.

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