Put your recyclables in your curbside bin LOOSE or in a paper bag. The same goes for the transfer station. Recyclables bundled in plastic bags do not get opened; they are automatically landfilled.

Our curbside and transfer station recyclables are driven to the JMK/Waste Management materials recovery facility (MRF) in the Port of Tacoma. They are dumped onto the floor, then scooped up onto a conveyor belt. The different materials (aluminum cans, metal cans, plastic soda bottles, milk jugs, cardboard, glass, mixed paper) are sorted by various means. Scroll down on this Kitsap County recycling page to see who buys our commodities.

The sorting process is fast-paced, and there is no time to open plastic bags and inspect what is inside. The workers pull all filled bags off the conveyor belt and send them down the trash chute.  When loose, empty plastic bags are put in recycling, at the MRF they end up clogging the rollers that mechanically separate out the paper (see photo).  At least twice a day, all machinery must be stopped to cut these bags off, a process that costs time and money and is dangerous for the workers who must cut the bags loose.

“The U.S. is one of the world’s top waste producers, and most of it goes to landfills,” [says Anelia Milbrandt, senior research analyst at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renwable Energy Laboratory’s Strategic Energy Analysis Center]. “The energy and resource values of materials put into landfills are lost. We can do better if we want to achieve a circular economy.”