Moscow Mills citizens can expect to get education materials regarding their recycling practices in the next few months as city officials aim to reduce the amount of contaminated recyclable materials that end up being rejected by Meridian Waste.
Moscow Mills started a dual stream system with Meridian Waste this year, which means citizens have one curbside container for rigid recyclables, plastics and tin/aluminum materials, but need to take their fiber recyclables, cardboard and assorted papers to one of three dumpster locations in the city.
Throughout the year, the city has received some complaints of people’s recycling bins being dumped in with the regular trash, and the large containers throughout the city reserved for fibers often have contaminated materials in them such as pizza boxes.
During a Board of Alderman meeting on Monday, Dec. 9, Meridian Waste Government and Community Affairs Manager Natalie Denando discussed with the aldermen ways to help educate citizens on the specifics surrounding how to recycle specific materials. Options include sending out mailers, emails or even leaving explanations for why someone’s recycling was contaminated on their recycling cans.
“We just gotta get the people to know that just because it’s paper does not mean… it has to be clean paper, per say, not [paper] with food on it. And for some reason that’s been a tough thing to get through people’s minds,” Alderman Mark Spence said. Spence had noted in the meeting that on several occasions his recycling had been dumped in the trash, even though Spence’s family follows the recycling guidelines very closely. When questioned later about the incidents, Meridian’s Chief Marketing Officer Mary O’Brien said that if they do find and verify that a driver is mixing recycling with the garbage, that employee is disciplined appropriately and then could potentially be terminated if its a continual effort.
While several personal experiences may trace to a Meridian error, Spence also pointed out that when he goes to drop his fibers at the dumpster, he will see contaminated materials mixed in.
Many aspects of the recycling industry changed in recent years because in 2018 China, who processed the majority of the worlds recycling, stopped accepting the contaminated plastics. Contaminated refers to recyclable materials that still have remnants of their product in them: food containers that still have crumbs or grease, or cleaning containers that still have their soap or chemicals in them to name some examples.
Now, U.S. companies have had to become strict on what they will and will not accept, with each company having to adapt to the services available to them.
“Plastic, cardboard, everything went in one recycle, so that there was so much contamination which was part of the whole China thing,” Spence said. “All the waste companies, it’s been a challenge for all – and even along the lines of recycling in general, I believe every community is different. Which just makes it even more of a challenge because if you were able to do it in St. Peters but then you come here and you can’t or vice versa, it just confuses residents even more.”
Moscow Mills Mayor Patrick Flannigan noted that currently there is nothing in place to alert people as to why their recycling might be thrown in the trash.
“It would aggravate me if I went through all the painstaking efforts to separate my trash into a second recyclable container and knowing that my efforts went in the trash. But people don’t realize that it’s contaminated,” Flannigan said, “There’s an endeavor on both our parts to help bring awareness to the community. We are looking to put flyers in with some monthly utility bills. But people have got to take the time to read the stuff and understand it, or else the problem is just going to continue.”