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To Cut Recycling Costs, This NC Town Rejects Contaminated Bins

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Via pxhere

In an effort to cut down on recycling contamination, the Town of Aberdeen has begun refusing to collect from curbside containers that hold dirty or non-recyclable materials. Town Manager Paul Sabiston says those bins will receive a red rejection tag, urging owners to remove garbage and other misplaced items before the next pick-up.

"A lot of people, innocently, were putting good recycling materials, like bottles, into plastic bags, but the plastic bags in and of themselves contaminated the load," said Sabiston.  "That was just a practice that they had been allowed to do before in the past. It changed, and that caught a lot of people off guard which is not a surprise. But we tried to explain that and be very clear that that's just not acceptable at this point."

Moore County's recycling tipping fee quadrupled last year, as trucking and sorting costs have continued to rise nationally. Recycling contamination can just drive up the cost further. 

"This is not something driven by a local government," Sabiston explained. "This is something driven by the industry, where it's just saying, 'We're not gonna take glass. We're gonna take more limited plastic that has to be cleaner.' And that's not just the practice that we were used to as a state and as a community for the last 5 or 6 years."

Sabiston says Aberdeen has been using flyers, social media and its website to educate residents about what can and cannot be recycled now. He said Moore County's preliminary estimates show a 20 percent reduction in Aberdeen's curbside contamination in the past couple of weeks.

Sabiston said he understands these changes are confusing and inconvenient.

"Some have said, 'Well I'm fed up, I'm not gonna do anything.' And I understand that, but I think by and large most of them do want to try and recycle. It's just... they've gotta have clear guidelines, which we've done our best to get to them."

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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