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Global events mean higher recycling costs for Ogle County

The Ogle County Solid Waste and Management Department has seven recycling bins in Ogle County. This bin is in the Ogle County Farm Bureau's parking lot in Oregon. Photo by Earleen Hinton
The Ogle County Solid Waste and Management Department has seven recycling bins in Ogle County. This bin is in the Ogle County Farm Bureau's parking lot in Oregon. Photo by Earleen Hinton

Recent global events are likely to mean higher recycling costs for Ogle County.

According to Dr. Kate O’Neill of the University of California at Berkeley, China drastically limited all scrap material it will import as of March 1.

Up until then, roughly half of all scrap materials produced in the U.S. (paper, metal, and plastics) have ended up in China using return-trip cargo container ships, which had brought goods to the U.S.

“They have decided to drastically cut back in China,”said Ogle County Solid Waste Management Department Stephen Rypkema. “What that means is that to the U.S. and the rest of the world is finding a new outlet.”

In the short run recycling will be more expensive and more difficult to get rid of, he said.

“In the long run it may mean more processing facilities will be developed in the U.S.,” he said.

China had developed the infrastructure for scrap processing and, up until recently, had welcomed U.S. waste scrap for raw materials.  

Those days have come to an end, according to O’Neill. Due to contamination of scrap, safety concerns, and alternative industries emerging in China, the scrap import ban has been established.

Rypkema said Chinese officials have been indicating their plans to cut back on accepting recyclables since last year. 

He said he does not believe it is a reaction to a plan to impose tariffs recently announced by President Donald Trump.

Rypkema encouraged local residents to put only acceptable recyclable items in the bins provided in various locations around the county.

“We want people to be more careful what they put in the recycle bins,” he said. “Our efforts are aimed at trying to educate people about what is recyclable and to encourage them to stick with it.”

A renewed effort is needed to not contaminate loads of recyclable material and to put more emphasis on waste reduction.

The cost goes up, Rypkema said, when non-recyclable garbage is mixed with recyclables.

The contents of the recycle bins goes to a processing center where it is sorted, and anything not recyclable goes to a landfill.

“It adds to the cost to sort it at the recycling centers and it goes to the landfill anyway,” he said.

He said his department pays for the bins to be emptied and for the transportation costs to take recyclables to the processing center, but is not paid for the recyclable materials.

The concept of waste reduction plays a large role in economical recycling. If the waste is not created, then it does not need to be recycled.  

The OCSWMD encourages residents to avoid plastic water bottles, paper plates, plastic utensils, plastic shopping bags, and Styrofoam coffee cups.  

Use instead a refillable water bottle and coffee mug, dining ware that can be washed and reused, and reusable shopping bags.  

Avoid items with excess plastic packaging, and buy products in bulk to reduce overall plastic waste.  

Also try to reuse items when possible, such as plastic furniture and kids’ playsets, used plastic oil and gas containers, and glass jars.  

Residents can also “opt-out” of junk mail, catalogs, and phone books to avoid that waste as well.  

Contact the provider of these materials and indicate to them that you no longer need, or require, paper materials sent to you.  

Information about stopping unwanted mail and protecting your privacy can be found at www.usa.gov/telemarketing.

The OCSWMD suggests when putting recyclables at the curb or drop-off site, be sure of what can be recycled and what cannot be recycled.  

Many items may appear to be recyclable, but in fact, are not.  

Some of these include plastic shopping bags, Styrofoam products, shredded paper, soiled pizza boxes and paper plates, window glass, all hangers, and used oil and gas containers.  

Putting these items into the recycling bin causes contamination, a key reason behind the Chinese limit on U.S. imports of recyclables.  

Putting items into the bin that do not belong also causes the bin to fill up more quickly, adding cost to the program due to more frequent pick-ups.

As far as what goes into the recycling bins, the OCSWMD states the list is as follows: flattened, clean cardboard, magazines, junk mail, whole paper (not shredded), paperboard boxes, newsprint, food and beverage cartons, aluminum and metal food and beverage cans, glass bottles and jars, and plastic bottles and jugs labeled #1-5 and #7.  

Remember, since recyclable materials will be sold, these items cannot be treated the same as garbage destined for disposal.

The OCSWMD encourages residents to reduce and reuse first, then recycle right in Ogle County.

For more information call the Ogle County Solid Waste Management Department at 815-732-4020 or visit www.oglecounty.org.

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