Recycling errors continue: City says don't put plastic bags in bin

Public Works officials are still trying to spread the word about how important it is to put the proper items in their recycling bins.

According to Bill Plantamura, acting sanitation foreman in Milford, only about 22% 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. That’s an improvement over last year, when he said only about 15% of people were putting the right things in the bin. But Plantamura said the numbers have to get a lot better if Milford is going to avoid being fined or even banned from bringing its material to the recycling plant.

“We need to be 85% to 90% compliant, and I don’t think that is so far fetched,” Plantamura said.

The biggest problem is plastic bags. Plantamura said many people put their recyclables into plastic bags before they bring them out to the big green bin. But then they just put the whole plastic bag into the recycling bin, instead of dumping the recyclables out.

Some residents are putting old clothes, used and dirty garbage and other unacceptable material into the bins, he said.

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.

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 last year that the biggest problems come from wet material; 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.

LIttle plastic caps are also a problem, and they shouldn’t be put in the recycling bin either.

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, and Plantamura is trying to get those flyers out to people through the media and possibly through a mailing.

Interviewed on the issue last year, 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.

The payment the city receives for recyclables isn’t much, but it’s better than having to pay to get rid of the material, Plantamura said.