“Stuff: Easier to get into your house than to get out,” reads the web page of the Department of Public Works & Engineering. While this is both true and humorous, disposing of your old “stuff” and recycling is actually getting easier. The key is knowing what can be recycled and where to do so; you may be in for a few pleasant surprises.
"While we don't take hazardous waste, we do accept stuff like oil and batteries," says Frank Cole, a self-proclaimed "dumpologist" (or supervisor) at the Guilford Transfer Station.
"All the one through seven plastics we take now; we used to take only numbers one and two," Cole said.
Cereal boxes are fine, pizza boxes are not
"Electronics are all free. You used to have to pay for it but it's all changed," he said and added, "That certainly pleases them."
Cole noted, "We'll take tires with the rim; they don't have to be off the rim."
Sweitzer Waste Removal's Paula Lenihan said, "Cereal boxes and pasta boxes -- a lot of people are surprised that boxboard can be recycled also. Paper egg cartons most people did not know and office paper."
"They're happy that as of last May the state added on all one through seven plastics. The only thing people are upset about are styrofoam, black plastic (even if it has the proper number), and plastic bags," she noted.
Black plastic has the right number, but still cannot be recycled
To-go containers and Lean Cuisine packaging are examples of black plastic.
"They have the proper number on them but, unfortunately, cannot be be recycled at this time."
Then, there are things people don't realize are not recyclable. Pizza boxes are the major mistake.
Says Lenihan, "People are surprised when that they can't recycle them but they never think about the oil that is in the pizza that contaminates the box."
The drivers keep an eye out for such items so that the load is not contaminated.
It's getting easier
“There have been some changes taking place, simplifying things,” says Dean Plummer, Chair of the Madison Energy Committee as well as father of Abby Plummer, a senior at Daniel Hand High School who conducted another succesful electronics recycling event at Hammonasset Beach State Park for the second year.
“We use one hauler who just went to a single stream where everything goes in one bin, whereas we used not to be able to put newspaper and cardboard together with the other recyclables,” reports Plummer, who said one day the hauler just dropped off large containers in front of his home.
"I was surprised that we could throw all of our junk mail and newspapers in along with plastic bottles and cans, and also cardboard as long as it is flattened and of certain dimensions," he said adding, "That simplifies things."
About a year ago, Plummer said, the Energy Committee was trying to come up with a simple recycling guide. “It was pretty daunting because you really had to check with your hauler about the nitty-gritty about what they would take.”
According to Plummer, the Guilford Transfer station will take everything, “but the only question is how much do you have to sort.”
And, there are still some mysteries “around such things as are milk cartons recyclable.”
Like father, like daughter
After Abby learned that nothing had been done along the shoreline regarding e-waste recycling in quite a while, she organized what turned out to be a highly successful e-waste recycling event last year.
“She contacted CRRA and it turns out they have a program where they partner with local groups to put on a collection event. She contacted Hammonassett State Park, picked a location, and got the location approved by everybody.”
“On 8am on a Saturday morning these huge trailers arrived and at 9am cars started lining up. She had a steady stream of cars for four hours!”
“Basically anything with a circuit board was fair game. People were dropping off televisions bigger than our living room, fax machines, somebody dropped off all of the consoles from an answering service, calculators, cell phones,” Plummer said.
Another successful event this year
Even though Abby is getting ready to head off to college, she decided to spearhead the event again this year and once again it was extremely successful.
According to Abby, “It’s great that Hammonasset was able to host the event sponsored by the CRRA again.”
From Abby’s experience, she feels that “a lot of people are hung up on computers. They don’t realize that computers can be recycled.”
Cell phones, she said, are also “a big one,” as are microwaves and television sets, "but the majority are very old CPUs and monitors."
“There’s been an incredible backlog. I think people keep them in their basements,” Abby said.
While the e-waste recycling event was again be popular again this year, Abby points out that, unlike last year, there is now
“Even if you missed this event, you haven’t missed out,” she said.