Kane Recycling Coordinator: Sometimes, It's Not Easy Being Green

Kane Recycling Coordinator: Sometimes, It’s Not Easy Being Green

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a new series of recycling stories from Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland. Got a question? Contact Jarland at 630-208-3841 or recycle@countyofkane.org.

“What do you mean I can’t recycle my coffee cups?!”

That’s the response I sometimes get from Kane County recyclers who truly want to do more to help the environment.

The truth is, a lot of folks are surprised by all of the items that we cannot recycle in the curbside cart. In a series of articles that starts today, I’m going to do my best to explain why some items can’t be recycled but also offer you encouragement to continue your recycling efforts and to recycle right!

Why Is The Recycling Coordinator Telling Us Not To Recycle Things?

Alam Sobhan removes tangled plastic shopping bags from a clogged machine at the ecomane recycling facility in Portland. The giant apparatus, which separates plastic from paper, must be shut down every day for up to 90 minutes so workers can remove the bags by hand. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

I have received several discouraged responses from readers of the recycling articles we’ve posted recently in the Kane County Connects e-newsletter and wanted to respond.

The Q&A articles come from real questions about whether something can be recycled, and unfortunately my answer to those questions is often “no.” For example, frozen food boxes, shredded paper and plastic bags are among the items you shouldn’t be putting in your curbside recycling bin.

There are many items that are not and have never been recyclable in the curbside programs. It’s not so much that the rules have changed but that we are getting more vocal about the rules because people are throwing in too much non-recyclable material. That material is damaging the whole system, and we need to do our part and follow the guidelines for what IS recyclable.

One of the first things we need to emphasize is that many of the items you can’t put in the cart ARE recyclable at drop-off locations. See the Kane County Recycles A-Z list to find out where to recycle just about anything.

Wishful Recycling

I have often witnessed what I call “wishful recycling.” It’s like wishful thinking but means throwing everything in and hoping (or assuming) that it will get recycled when it will not.

Recycling is not a matter of throwing everything in the bin that you want to recycle. It is about separating out the materials that can and will be recycled, and placing them in your curbside recycling container for collection. This practice is important and is most certainly “worth it!”

Yes! It Is Still Worth It To Recycle!

It breaks my heart that people think that recycling is failing because they are learning that many things they thought were recyclable are not! The system is struggling because people are putting way too much garbage in the recycling bins.

It is important to note that we are recycling the good stuff and want to keep doing that!

Recycling is an action that all of us can do to improve the environment and the economy and to foster sustainable manufacturing.

The value of recycling lies in the glass, metal, and paper resources that can be remade into new products, rather than continuing to harvest and mine our limited and non-renewable raw materials. Recycling reuses resources, reduces pollution from mining raw materials, uses less energy and water than manufacturing from raw materials, creates thousands of jobs, and conserves landfill space.

About This Series

This new series of articles, titled “It’s Not Easy Being Green” will explain that we are not taking away the privilege to recycle all of these things, that they have never been recyclable (in the curbside cart) and likely never will be, and why. It will talk about how the sorting facilities work and how we can all do our part to improve the system.

Like my grandpa used to say, “Nothing worth doing is ever easy.”