Submitted by Ed McGrath
Recycling Coordinator, Bedford DPW

The adage “Think Globally, Act Locally” is back in play here in Bedford with regard to recycling.

Because of the dramatic changes in the recycling industry, Bedford residents will have to be diligent about what they put out for recycling each week. The Department of Public Works is mailing all residents information about what materials are acceptable for recycling and what materials are not acceptable.

“As of May 21, Republic Service will only collect acceptable recyclable materials, “ said Ed McGrath, Bedford’s Recycling Coordinator. “Any recyclables in a plastic bag will be left behind as will any other plastic bags or plastic film.”

Acceptable Materials for Recycling Include

  • Empty and flattened cardboard boxes
  • Mixed paper, magazines and newspapers
  • Aluminum and steel cans
  • Food and beverage cartons
  • Glass bottles and jars; and
  •  Plastic containers from the kitchen, laundry and bathroom.

All glass, metal and plastic containers as well as food and beverage cartons should be rinsed and emptied.

The two main contaminants found in recycling bins are recyclables in plastic bags and food waste. Residents should rinse and empty all food and beverage containers so as not to ruin the paper for recycling.

Banned Materials

Other materials that shouldn’t go in the recycling bin because they jam up the sorting equipment at the processing facility are

  • Clothing or linens,
  • Hoses, wires, chains,
  • Electronics, and
  • Plastic film including include plastic bags, beverage case wraps, dry cleaning bags, newspaper bags and pet food bags.

Then there is Styrofoam packaging and foam food containers. Bedford’s Recycling Program does not include foam items (recycling symbol #6). Any foam item should be discarded in the trash. “The company that we used a few years back to recycle foam closed and the options available now are too expensive,” said McGrath.

Effect of International Ban

“Last year, China banned 24 categories of materials and lowered the contamination level to less than 1 percent,” explained McGrath. “These restrictions impact what people put out for recycling each week and how the sorting facility operates.

“We’ve been told by state and industry officials that we have to take measures to address the contamination issue at the curb because 10 to 20 percent of the recycling stream is not recyclable at the sorting facility,” McGrath continued. “Going forward, Republic’s recycling workers will not take any material that is considered a contaminant to the recycling stream.”

McGrath emphasized that the cost to process Bedford’s recycling is cheaper than to dispose of trash. Bedford’s cap for its recycling fee is $45 per ton, a rate it has paid since February. The cost per ton at the Covanta Waste-to-Energy plant in Haverhill is $70 per ton.

For More Information

More information is available at the DPW’s website https://www.bedfordma.gov/refuse-and-recycling.

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