ashland.news
July 23, 2024

Ashland Recycling Center no longer accepts colored plastic bags

Plastic bags
Jamie Rosenthal, senior waste zero specialist for Recology Ashland, puts up a sign at the entry to the Ashland Recycling Center noting the modification to the soft plastics recycling program. Bob Palermini photo for Ashland.news
November 5, 2023

Melting down and processing bags of various colors leads to a muddy brown product, and that’s a marketing problem

By Damian Mann for Ashland.news

Colored plastic bags will no longer be accepted at the Ashland Recycling Center.

“We can accept only clear, and by clear we mean clear,” said Jamie Rosenthal, waste zero specialist at Recology Ashland. “It can’t have any printing of any kind on it.”

She said changing market conditions for recycling have prompted the change.

Clear bags with stickers will be accepted but those with any type of writing on them will not, Rosenthal said.

The market for colored plastic bags could change in the future, but Rosenthal said it’s unclear when that might happen.

“It’s anybody’s guess,” she said.

In general, bulk buyers of recyclables find it more difficult to deal with colored bags because mixing them in with clear bags, melting them down and creating new bags leads to a muddy brown color.

Processing dyed or pigmented plastics also have the lowest market value.

Clear plastic bags, on the other hand, have the highest market value. Another advantage with recycling clear plastic is that it can be dyed easily.

Rosenthal said the Ashland Recycling Center, 220 Water St., provides an option for residents to recycle items that are not accepted in the recycling bins that are picked up curbside.

Some items that can be recycled at the center include ink jets cartridges, and very large pieces of cardboard.

Other items that can be dropped off including moving supplies such as packing “popcorn” or Styrofoam, which are in turn made available to other residents who can use them for packaging.

Once market conditions change, Rosenthal said, the hope is to immediately start accepting colored plastic bags.

An Ashland business owner drops off clear plastic bags that her merchandise comes in at the Ashland Recycling Center. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini

“That’s one advantage with the recycling center, that we can just turn on and off programs like this,” she said.

In the past, plastic bags have posed a problem for recycling facilities because they turn gooey in the mechanism that grinds them up, sometimes requiring shutting the machinery down to clean the sticky mess out.

Rosenthal said Recology works closely with recycling processing centers to ensure items are actually recycled. Recology prefers working with domestic facilities, but some items do go out of country.

Rosenthal said a staffer at Recology’s main offices in San Francisco vets facilities to ensure they are processing the materials properly and are providing a safe work environment.

Plastic recycling can be confusing for many residents, but Oregon is about to make it a little clearer. The Plastic Pollution and Recycling Modernization Act, which became law on Jan. 1, 2022, will require changes by July 2025.

“Oregon is going to hold the manufacturers of these products responsible for their recycling,” Rosenthal said.

The Ashland Recycling Center, 220 Water St., Ashland. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini

The goal is to provide consumers with same recycling programs no matter where they live.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality will publish a uniform statewide collection list for commingled recyclable material, allowing residents and businesses to recycle the same materials, regardless of location.

All Oregon cities and counties will be eligible to receive funding for expansion of collection services for residents and businesses.

Companies identified as producers of recyclable materials are required to join and pay fees to a Producer Responsibility Organization.

The fees will pay for transporting collected recyclables from communities currently 50 or more miles from the nearest commingled recycling processing facility.

By 2026, most of the required changes of the recycling law should have taken effect.

Reach freelance writer Damian Mann at dmannnews@gmail.com.

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