Republic Services has made more changes to its list of recyclable materials as the market continues to evolve, Michelle Smith, executive director of the Solid Waste Management District told her board Monday morning.

New to the list of unacceptable items, Smith said, is what's called level No. 4 plastic, also commonly referred to as “plastic film.” That includes everything from plastic bags — which recycling companies didn't like taking anyway because they shred and clog sorting machines — to plastic wrappers on things like cases of water bottles, paper towels, toilet paper, and even bread.

“So the list (of recyclables) is reduced quite a bit now from what it once was,” Smith said. 

Glass hasn't been accepted in some time as the market for it is still declining, she said.

The widespread adoption of single-stream collection — or putting everything from paper to plastic into one container — hasn't been good for the recycled glass market. While single-stream helps to increase participation in curbside programs, it also reduces the quality of recovered glass due to breaking and contamination.

Paper mills — once a huge consumer of discarded glass — no longer accept it. Manufacturers of home insulation, too, are using less recycled glass.

As a result, nearly half of all collected glass ends up in landfills anyway, so many major trash collection companies and municipalities alike have decided to exclude glass from their curbside recycling programs.

And for now, Smith says there is really no other option than to add No. 4 plastics to your regular trash, although local grocery stores do often take back plastic shopping bags as part of their own corporate recycling efforts.

“But plastic film is a little different,” Smith said.

Still, Smith continues pushing her message of recycling.

“'Recycle Right' — that's the campaign we're trying to promote,” she said. “Just make sure you know what is accepted and what isn't.

“The recycling market is still down — it's still struggling — but within the next five years, we do anticipate it to go back up. We're just trying to keep that recycling habit going with residents. We still want you to recycle as much as you can.”

City council president Duane Chattin, who also sits on the district board, told his fellow council members during their regular meeting Monday that Republic plans to begin charging to dispose of city-collected recyclables. For many years, Republic has done it at no cost, but Chattin said as the market changes, so, too, will the city's arrangement with Republic.

“The cost of handling recycling is going up as the market goes down,” Chattin said. 

Beginning May 1, Republic will begin charging the city $45 per ton of recyclables.

Bryce Anderson, superintendent of the city's Street and Sanitation Department, says his crews collect each year upwards of 85-90 tons, equating to a cost of nearly $4,000.

But the “good news,” Chattin said, is that the district is considering picking up that cost.

“So it's possible that that (change) won't have a negative impact on our budget,” he said, adding that the district will pick those discussions back up next month.

Republic's new recyclables list also applies to anyone who drops off recyclables directly — and at no charge — to Republic Services' transfer station at 2706 N. Second St.

Materials still allowed into single-stream recyclable containers include aluminum and steel cans, plastics like milk and water jugs and soda bottles (labels do not need to be removed), magazines and catalogs, mixed paper and newspaper (also junk mail) as well as corrugated boxes and paperboard.

Not included in that last category, however, is waxed boxes or milk/juice cartons.

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