Waste not: Local agency discusses how to recycle

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

DULUTH -- Connie Wiggins appreciates anyone who recycles, but she said those who are educated about the process can help reduce the waste that ends up at recycling centers.

Wiggins, the executive director of Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful, said recycling can be easy, but it's not as simple as just throwing items into a bin.

"There's much more to it," Wiggins said. "It starts with us as consumers buying something and making a choice to recycle something."

At the Recycling Bank of Gwinnett, workers must hand-sort items and pull out items that are inappropriately recycled at the facility, Wiggins said. The process costs the nonprofit organization time and money, although Wiggins did not have exact figures during a recent interview.

Wiggins said Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful tries to find Earth-friendly ways to dispose of many of the items that cannot be processed at the Recycling Bank.

"If it is really something that can't be used, it ends up going to a landfill," she said.

Recycling is a process that involves separating items, baling them and sending the bales to an industry that needs and wants the products, Wiggins said.

For example, she said, many recycled plastic bottles end up in Dalton, where they are made into carpets. The plastic is in both the fibers and the backing of the carpet.

Many consumers try to recycle any item that has a number on the bottom of it. But plastic is a complex material, and recycling isn't just about the number, Wiggins said. It also involves the shape of the container.

Plastic bottles that have a neck that is narrower than its base are OK to recycle.

Wiggins said the following items are difficult to recycle, but for those who are determined to find a way, it can be done:

* Plastic food containers. When possible, Wiggins suggests you buy items in cardboard. Some containers -- including those for yogurt and cottage cheese -- can be recycled at Whole Foods. Or you can keep the containers to store leftovers or other items.

* Chip bags. Many are a blend of paper and plastic. They can be mailed to TerraCycle, a company that makes items such as fashionable bags out of them.

* Plastic toys. Wiggins suggests donating them to an organization like Goodwill or giving them to a neighbor.

* Electronics. Stores such as Best Buy and Staples have recycling programs for hard-to-dispose-of items like computers.