ITHACA, NY -- Starting on Nov. 2, the Tompkins County Department of Recycling and Materials Management (DRMM) implemented a new system of rejecting recycling bins that do not adhere to the guidelines set forth on their website. Residents will now receive a rejection sticker if their bins include items that are contaminants such as plastic bags, styrofoam, and electronics. If a resident does receive a rejection sticker, they will have the opportunity to correct it and either wait for the next collection date or bring their recycling to the Recycling and Solid Waste Center.
This decision comes after nearly two decades of supplying warning stickers to residents asking if they could correct their mistakes while still collecting bins. However, with little improvement, the DRMM have switched to actively leaving bins at the curb if they do not meet the department’s guidelines.
Jeremy Betterley, the communications coordinator for the DRMM, states that while this recycling issue is not unique to just Tompkins County, “there is a general issue with there being too much trash in the recycling. Tompkins County does better than many other communities; however, in order to produce quality recyclables, we really need to cut down on the problem items that keep getting into the recycling bins.”
Some of the problem items that DRMM refers to in their guidelines are plastic bags and films, electronics, paper towels and tissues, styrofoam, textiles, and general trash that is finding its way into recycling bins and that cannot be recycled.
Although it is too early to say if there has been an improvement in the quality of the recycling, Seth Dennis, the Waste Reduction and Recycling Specialist at DRMM, stated in a post on the DRMM website about this new rejection system: “We’d like to thank residents for doing their part to be informed about recycling and taking steps to make sure their bins can be collected. Together we can make sure recycling continues to be a success in our community.”
The DRMM worked closely with the Tompkins County Legislature as well as Casella Recycling, the company that performs curbside recycling collection in order to develop this new phase of rejection. Betterly said the move isn’t necessarily financially motivated, and that the department has not really been affected by the pandemic.
“This is really just an effort to provide some education and cut down on contamination,” explained Betterley. “One way we like to think of it is people tend to ‘wish-cycle,’ which is when you aren’t sure if something is recyclable, but you put it in anyway because you hope it is. We’re really encouraging folks to have the correct information, and when in doubt, keep it out.”
For more information and access to the Department of Recycling and Materials Management’s guidelines, go to their website here.