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Sustainability Tip: Recycling is confusing, here’s what you need to know to do it properly

By Nina Waysdorf
Special to the Daily

Did you know that recycling rules can and do change? What is recyclable at your home in Vail may be a little different than at the free recycling drop site in Eagle, or in Denver, Dallas or Denmark. There can be various reasons for changes in recycling rules, including commodities markets, infrastructure and transportation, and as those factors evolve, so do recycling rules.

Here in Eagle County, we have dual stream and single stream recycling available, and there are a few tricky items that can go in one system but not the other. It’s important to keep track of these items and where they can or can’t be recycled. In fact, there’s been some recent changes for single stream recyclers in Eagle County.

As a reminder, if you have residential curbside recycling in the towns of Eagle, Minturn, or Arrowhead, or if you take your recycling to a free Eagle County recycling drop site, you have dual stream recycling. That means that you must separate your commingle (recyclable plastics, metals, and glass) from the paper and cardboard. Cardboard cannot be recycled curbside for dual stream customers and must be taken to a drop site. All other communities in Eagle County and most businesses have single stream recycling, in which all recycling goes into one bin.

As of just recently, single stream recyclers in Eagle County can now put plastic cups and plastic clamshell containers in their recycling bins. They must have the chasing arrows symbol with a number inside in order for it to be accepted in the recycling (that goes for all plastic bottles, tubs, jugs and containers), and you must remove the straw and other small plastics. Dual stream recyclers have always been able to recycle these items and can continue to do so. Styrofoam cups and clamshells are still never recyclable in Eagle County, even if they have the chasing arrows symbol.

Just because a piece of plastic has the chasing arrows symbol doesn’t mean it can be processed locally.
Special to the Daily

But watch out. There are also compostable “plastic” cups and clamshells out there. These are identifiable by the #7 PLA with the chasing arrows symbol. These items are made with plant-based plastic, not petroleum-based like traditional plastics, and can therefore not go in your recycling bin. These items can often be industrial composted, depending on your compost hauler.

Here are the other items that vary between single and dual stream recycling in Eagle County:

Aluminum foil

 Aluminum foil can be accepted in single stream recycling only. It should be clean (no food residue), and balled up. Please do not recycle if you have dual stream recycling.

Starbucks Coffee Cups

Starbucks white-fiber cups (for hot coffee) can be recycled in single stream recycling only, but please remove the lid. Please do not recycle if you have dual stream recycling.

Cardboard

Cardboard is recycled in both single and dual stream, but only picked up from curbside single stream recycling. If you have dual stream curbside pickup, please take your cardboard to the Free Recycling Drop Sites and it will be recycled from there.

Shredded paper

Shredded paper can be recycled in dual stream only, but please be mindful of containing it. Try putting it in a paper bag, which is also recyclable. Never put any recycling in plastic bags.

Aseptic cartons

Aseptic cartons (tetra paks, milk and broth cartons) can be recycled in single stream recycling only.

If you’re unsure if you have single or dual stream recycling, then check with your hauler, and if you’re ever unsure of what goes in which bin, check the free Eagle County Waste Wizard app.

Nina Waysdorf is the Zero Waste Coordinator at Walking Mountains Sustainability. Contact her at ninaw@walkingmountains.org.


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