Susan Rogers: So tell us the recycling rules already
July 24, 2018
Dear Waste Management (copy to all my friends who read The Union):
You do a pretty good job with our trash. It's a dirty business, and it's not getting any easier now that China doesn't want to clean up our contaminated recyclables before they can even recycle them for us. Poor Indonesia and those other countries you are checking out for the next dumping ground!
One has to wonder what will happen when there's no longer a place to send the 250-plus million tons of garbage that Americans throw away every year. (But hey, that's for the next generation to figure out, right? Why should we think about that now?)
Anyway, here's why I'm writing. Our newspaper reported that you wanted the Grass Valley City Council to let you fine us when we contaminate our recycling. What?!? Thankfully, they turned you down for now, and suggested you do a better job educating us as to what we can and can't recycle.
I’m a real rules-follower, OK? But you have to tell me what the rules are.
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That's a good idea; and you know why? It's because I had no idea that you are now accepting only number 1 and 2 plastic. When did that happen? I'm a real rules-follower, OK? But you have to tell me what the rules are. I didn't know you stopped taking plastics numbered 3 to 7, and neither did any of my Grass Valley neighbors and friends. If you put an insert in bills you mailed, that didn't work for me, because you debit my bank for payment (saving you money on paper and postage). You do have my email address, but I didn't get an email about recycling.
The June 13 article in The Union online had a hotlink to your website page on recyclables, so I went there to educate myself. It's a little wordy, ya know? (A lot wordy, actually. Some people won't read it all, I'm telling you now.) But I did learn some things I didn't know before, such as:
You do take aluminum foil and pie pans, as long as they are clean (meaning absolutely no food waste on them).
We can't recycle any caps or lids, not even metal! Who knew? I've been throwing out (not recycling) plastic bottle caps because somebody (not you) mentioned it to me once, but I figured metal jar lids, hey, they're metal. But I see now it's "contamination," so I'll stop.
We need to wash all our empty jars and cans before recycling! I never knew that.
Everything, and I mean everything, has to be completely empty and clean. Even soda bottles. I was amazed to read on your website, "One partially empty soda bottle in a bale of plastic can spoil the whole load," and "One dirty product, or one with food waste still in it, can contaminate an entire bale, containing thousands of pounds of collected plastics. This can cause thousands of recyclable items to go to a landfill instead of being recycled."
Wow. Like I said, who knew? Not me or my friends. I didn't even know this was on your website until now. But still, it's too much blah-blah. You need something that reads much faster for today's short attention spans.
Your public relations manager Tisha Gill told the newspaper that it was "eye opening" to get "plenty of questions" about recycling recently at Thursday Night Market. But let me tell you what was eye-opening for me: to see that she also said, "It was nice to get out there and really talk to the customers."
What a concept! To talk to the customers! Can I make a suggestion? Your event staffers need to be trained to engage people who wander past, and they need to sell your message. I know this from seeing your table at the Wildfire Safety Day at the Rood Center a few months ago. The Waste Management guy was supposed to be promoting your yard waste pickup service. (You know, the one where you'll pick up a giant can of yard waste twice a month for really cheap, like $11, so people creating defensible space have an easy way to get rid of their slash.) I knew that, but I don't think anyone told the nice young man at your table. He was so lonely! He didn't have any kind of sign promoting Yard Waste Pickup, so why should anyone stop at the table?
If you need more ideas on customer education, see my email address below. I've asked my Facebook friends outside Nevada County to send photos of what they get from their garbage companies about recycling do's and don'ts, and would be happy to share.
Susan Rogers is an 18-year customer of Waste Management, and a member of The Union's Editorial Board. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Coalition, the Editorial Board or its members. She can be reached at EditBoard@theunion.com.
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