Options for Some Hard-to-Recycle Items

By George Stubbs

Occasionally, we receive inquiries through our web site from Melrose citizens who want to do the right thing when they recycle but are unsure of their options. A certain item looks like it ought to be recyclable but is non-standard in some way—or just raises questions. The item may be a composite of various substances, and certain plastic packaging can really present a quandary. The plastics industry is coming up with new resins in new combinations all the time, and the recycling industry struggles to keep up.

Given current economic difficulties and problems with “contamination” of the secondary materials (i.e., recyclables) stream—contamination meaning the presence of items that cannot be processed at the materials recycling facility (MRF) —companies that offer recycling services are advising, “When in doubt, throw it out.” The Melrose Recycling Committee is also offering this counsel. Too much contamination in any given load of recyclables will prompt the vendor to treat the whole load as trash. This raises costs to the city, as we pay for waste disposal services by the ton. And helping the city keep waste management costs down is a vital part of the committee’s mission.

So when the following inquiry came through MRC’s web site, we sympathized, but shared the “when in doubt, throw it out” mantra:

“I am wondering:
(1) Are water filters from our refrigerator recyclable?
(2) I have a cutter that removes the plastic bottom of Keurig pods from the top (so I can compost the coffee). Are the plastic bottoms of the Keurig pods recyclable?”

But wait. Just because there is initial doubt about whether a certain item may or may not be recyclable doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to remove that doubt. After sharing the inquiry with the MRC members (and after providing the inquirer with an initial response), one committee member responded back with the following:

In the case of Keurig pods, or “K cups,” “if the plastic is clean, completely separate from the foil and other components , and made from #1-7 [plastic] then it should be recyclable curbside.” This committee member then noted the existence of a company that does recycle K cups. To learn more about this company, follow this link: https://www.recycleacup.com/recycling/.

In also turns out, our committee member said, that somebody is doing something about refrigerator filters as well. Whirlpool has introduced the Refresh & Recycle Program (https://everydropwater.com/Recycle), under which you can receive, through the mail, a water filter recycling “kit.” Each kit consists of a 9”x12” poly plastic mailer to return your spent filter, as well as a Water Filter Recycling Process instruction card. Whirlpool says that the components of each returned filter are used to make a new product rather than sent to a landfill. Whirlpool is collaborating with the specialty recycling company g2 revolution on the project.

So, yes, when in doubt, your best bet with a particular item is to throw it in with the rest of your trash, as frustrating as that may feel. But don’t forget, doubt can be dispelled by information—which may be just a few clicks of the keyboard away.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s