Let’s Talk Trash | SummitDaily.com
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Let’s Talk Trash

CARLY WIERhigh country conservation center

Can magazines, office paper and newspaper be mixed at the Frisco drop-off center? – Gail Culp, FriscoYes. The Summit County Recycling program accepts “mixed paper” for recycling at the drop-off centers.Mixed paper includes most of the paper you have in your homes and offices. Newspapers and inserts, magazines and catalogues, junk mail and office paper can all be placed in the same bin at the Frisco, Breckenridge and Dillon recycling locations.There are some exceptions. “Brown papers” such as cardboard, paperboard (like from cereal boxes) and brown paper bags must be kept out of mixed paper and instead be placed in the cardboard bins because of differing markets and destinations. Phone books also have their own bin. The brown papers are made back into brown papers and the phone books back into phone books.The days of sorting your home or office paper into seven different categories are over, but there are still general sorting guidelines to follow when it comes to all paper. It is now OK to leave paper clips, staples, small metal binders and even plastic envelopes on your paper. Paper recycling has improved to include processes that remove these small items. But there are a few things to keep out of all paper recycling bins. Tissues, napkins, paper plates, paper cups, paper ream wrappers and bright neon or dark-colored paper are the most common contaminants in paper recycling streams. All of these should be thrown in the trash, not the recycling bin.The reasons these types of paper cannot be recycled are related to the recycling process itself. Large-scale paper recycling is not that different from making paper in an art class with a kitchen blender. Old paper is recycled into new paper by mixing it with water and bleach, blending it, skimming off the inks, glues and small contaminants (like plastic envelope windows), and then running it over a series of rollers where it is flattened and dried. A sheet of high-quality paper can be recycled only about seven times before the fibers in it are no longer strong enough to hold together. Tissues and napkins are intentionally soft and have short, weak fibers that cannot be recycled into new paper. They should be thrown in the trash or into the compost bin where they will biodegrade quickly.Paper plates, paper cups and paper ream wrappers are designed to have wet strength and have a thin coating of plastic or wax on their fibers, which ultimately prevents them from being recycled. Finally, bright neon, dark reds and shades of orange (commonly called goldenrod) paper don’t work in the recycling process because of the heavy dyes contained in the paper. To get that neon orange paper so shockingly bright, the paper is actually dyed when it is in the liquid fiber form. Because of this vat-dying process, the dyes are on each and every fiber of the paper. Bright and neon paper can’t be recycled because it requires too much energy, water and bleach to get the paper fibers back to their “white” color – thereby defeating the purpose of recycling. We suggest avoiding bright, neon papers altogether. In addition to being non-recyclable, they also require significant inputs of toxic heavy metals in their manufacturing process. Light-colored, pastel papers are dip-dyed, meaning that they start out as white paper and are then colored once they are in their sheet form. These pastel-colored papers can easily be recycled back into white paper. Paper recycling has come a long way over the past few years. Sorting is easier than ever, and the availability of high-quality recycled-content paper products has improved tremendously. Remember to look for the “made with recycled content paper” phrase and the small, solid recycling symbol when you’re buying paper products, or feel free to contact us if you need help sourcing recycled content paper.Here’s one of many High Country Conservation Center mottos: “If you’re not buying recycled, you’re not really recycling.” You can truly close the loop and help move toward a zero-waste society by buying recycled content AND recyclable paper products. Carly Wier is the executive director of High Country Conservation Center, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Let’s Talk Trash is a weekly column dedicated to exploring local waste and conservation issues. Submit questions to recycle@colorado.net with Trash Talk as the subject or by snail mail to High Country Conservation Center, PO Box 4506, Frisco, CO 80443.


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