San Diego's rules for recycling long trailed those in many other California cities. Photo: Sam Hodgson
San Diego announced Monday that residents can recycle many more types of plastics in curbside blue bins: Yogurt cups, lawn chairs, plastic toys and others.
Here are some answers to questions that readers and I have had about plastic recycling.
What’s going to happen to all this stuff now being collected?
It’s headed to China or other Asian countries. Depending on the type of plastic, the city says it can be used for fiber fill for jackets, laundry baskets, trays and tubes. The type of plastic in yogurt cups can be turned into the black plastic used in TV sets and electronics. Toys, buckets and pots can be recycled into — yep — toys, buckets and pots.
Why’s this stuff only being collected now when it wasn’t before?
Because the city’s recycler knows it has a guaranteed market for it. Some localities throughout California were able to recycle it previously because they found specific manufacturers that wanted plastics like yogurt cups. San Diego didn’t, and didn’t want to collect it in blue bins if it would’ve had to be sent to the landfill.
If I’m recycling a plastic bottle or laundry detergent container, should I keep the cap on? Can caps be recycled?
Yes and yes. Ken Prue, San Diego’s recycling program manager, said bottle caps will get recycled when the material is processed into the plastic pellets used to make new products.
Here’s his full answer via e-mail:
Caps can be left on any/all of the containers that are placed in the recycling bin. The caps on plastic bottles and containers are separated from the bottles/containers as part of the actual grinding/shredding and washing process that occurs to make the material into plastic flake or pellets that can then be used in the manufacture of new products. The plastic from the caps are separated from the bottle/container plastic in cases where the lid is a different material than the container, and in either case, the materials are recycled. The same goes for plastic labels you find on some bottles such as a 2-liter bottle of soda. The grinding/shredding and washing process occurs after plastics have been separated, sold and shipped to a destination market.
Metal caps and lids from beverage or soup cans can also be recycled, Prue said. But stick the tops of food cans back into the can, he said, because they’re sharp and can hurt recycling workers or get stuck in sorting equipment.
How in the heck do I get a lawn chair into my blue bin?
Be creative. Destroy it. The city will take it in pieces.
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