Only 15% of residents put right stuff in recycling bins

Public Works officials are trying to spread the word to residents about how important it is to put the proper items in their recycling bins.
According to Bill Plantamura, acting sanitation foreman in Milford, only 15% of the people who are putting their recycling bins out for pickup every other week are compliant, meaning they are putting the right things inside.
Altogether, about 90% of city households put their bins out for the recycling truck, and with 15% of compliant, that means 75% are putting the wrong items in.
“We find a lot of things — yard waste, sneakers, plastic bags, dirty pizza boxes, used paper towels, clothes,” Plantamura said.
“Once the stuff is in the truck, it has to go to the [recycling] plant,” he said. “If we keep coming up non-compliant, we will be fined.”
Plantamura said he doesn’t mean to chastise people who are trying to recycle, but he wants to spread the word about what is proper and what is not proper for the bins.
He set up a booth at a city energy fair this past weekend at the Milford Public Library and handed out brochures and talked to people about recycling. He said he is putting together other ideas, such as sending mailers and possibly sending a message through the city’s phone alert system.
No plastic bags
The city’s recyclables are taken to Winters Brothers Waste Systems in Shelton once they are collected, and there the glass, plastics, cardboards, and other items are sorted.
If there are plastic bags and other items that don’t belong, they have to be manually picked out.
Ryan Bingham, government affairs liaison for Winters Brothers, said the biggest problems come from wet matieral; foreign objects, like hoses and material too large for the equipment to handle, and plastic bags.
Plastic bags get stuck in the sorting mechanism and slow down production. “It causes a big mess,” Bingham said.
To simplify things, he said the things that go into the recycle bin are “anything that is clean plastic, paper, cardboard, metal or glass,” minus the plastic bags.
A Winters Brothers flyer lists the items that can and cannot go in the recycling bin.
Yes: Paper and cardboard can go in the bin if they are newspapers, magazines or catalogs, white or colored paper, including mail (even envelopes with plastic windows), wrapping paper, etc.
Smooth cardboard, such as cereal and other dry-food boxes, can go in.
Paper bags are acceptable, as are flattened cardboard and shredded paper.
Yes: Metal, glass and plastic is acceptable, and those include metal cans, foil wrap and trays, and plastic bottles and jugs for detergent, soda, milk, juice, water, etc., “any bottle where the neck is smaller than the body.”
Also acceptable are glass bottles and jars, and household metal, including wire hangers, all metal appliances, and indoor and outdoor metal furniture, including cabinets and window screens, metal pots and pans, cutlery, and utensils.
Plastic trays or tubs are OK, as are plastic toys, plastic appliances and plastic furniture.
The flyer notes that these items have to be clean. “Rinse metal, glass and plastic items and place them in your single-stream recycling container,” the flyer states. “Throw away caps and lids with your regular trash.”
No: Some paper and cardboard is not accepted. In the “no” category are plastic- or wax-coated paper, such as candy wrappers and take-out containers, carbon paper, heavily soiled paper or cardboard, and hardcover books.
No: Some metal, glass and plastic cannot be recycled. Those include motor oil or chemical containers, Styrofoam, such as cups and egg cartons, and plastic bags, wrap or film — no plastic sandwich wraps or grocery or dry cleaning bags.
It’s also a “no” for plastic utensils, plates, cups and plastic bowls, as well as lightbulbs, pane glass, pump spray nozzles, caps or lids, and household batteries.
Reminder needed
One resident at Saturday’s energy fair said he tries to recycle faithfully but admits he has forgotten what goes in the bin and what doesn’t.
“When we got the bins, there was a sticker on the lid that told us what to put inside, but our sticker isn’t there anymore,” he said.
Public Works Director Chris Saley said education is the key.
“Bill [Plantamura] really wants to change how we collect our trash and to maximize our recycling and composting,” Saley said. “We really want to educate our citizens to the importance of recycling, not just because it saves Milford money but also because of how good it is for the environment.”
It costs the city around $92 a ton to receive, process and burn its trash. It costs almost $30 a ton to process yard waste.
On the other hand, the city receives $20 a ton for its recycled trash.
“So as you can see, we want to make sure we are recycling as much as we can,” Saley said. “We started single-stream recycling in 2013, so I think it is important to make sure everyone knows what goes in and what does not go in the big green bin.”