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[GreenYes] fort worth single stream problems

Posted on Sun, Mar. 26, 2006

Residents can't quite sort out recycling rules


Star-Telegram Staff Writer

FORT WORTH -- On a typical day, Rosanna Flores and partner Jose Flores (no
relation) troll a single trash route in a former police cruiser loaded with
plastic bags, yellow tags and work gloves.

Their mission: To dig through residential recycling bins and find trash that
can't be recycled. It's rare that they finish a whole route.

On Friday, for instance, they checked the bins at about 40 houses in two
blocks near McCart Avenue and Risinger Road. They found more than 30
violations, including plastic wrapping paper, pizza boxes with slices of
pizza still in them, shoes, egg cartons and hard plastic packaging. Outside
one house, they found a bag of regular household trash in the recycling bin.

"They're just using it as another trash can," Jose Flores said.

Most of the items were taken out of the recycling carts, placed in plastic
bags and left in residents' yards, along with a tag explaining that they
couldn't be recycled. More serious problems, such as food left in recycling
bins, were tagged with a different sticker informing residents that a $10
fee would be tacked onto their next garbage bill.

Recycling has been a sore point for residents and officials since the city
switched its trash collection system in 2003.

Before then, residents set out their recycling in box-size green bins. Now,
residents are given a rolling cart the size of a large trash can.

The big carts allow residents to recycle much more of what they used to
throw out, and the percentage of trash that is recycled has jumped from 6
percent to 20 percent. The city makes about $1 million a year by reselling
the metal, paper and plastic.

But the city suffers a double loss when residents put other trash in the
recycling bins. Not only can the material not be recycled, but the city also
has to pay its recycling contractor to dispose of the trash, which is much
more expensive than simply hauling it to the city landfill, city
Environmental Director Brian Boerner said. In some cases, the recycling
contractor rejects whole truckloads of material because it is contaminated.

Boerner estimated that the city could bring in another $1 million a year if
less of the recycling was contaminated.

But residents are upset by the city's tactics and are often confused by the
rules. Cardboard boxes can be recycled; pizza boxes can't. Plastic bottles,
not plastic bags. Aluminum cans, not aluminum foil. And the items can't be
in trash bags because the bags can jam the sorting equipment at the
recycling center.

Patty McCoy said many of her neighbors were upset when they saw trash thrown
in their yards. "They didn't talk to anybody; they just stapled a little
note or put it in the yard and kept moving," she said.

"It's ridiculous," said Lydia Petty, who watched the blue crew move down her
street Friday morning.

Like a lot of people, Petty tries to sort her trash in small cans inside her
house. But she likes to put liners in the can, which is a no-no.

"What am I supposed to do, put the recycling bin in the house?" she said.

Miguel Gonzalez, who also lives on the street, had a recycling cart with a
broken lid, and several inches of rainwater had soaked the materials inside.
Jose Flores asked him to move the sodden cardboard boxes into his regular
trash cart.

"I've called two or three times to get this lid replaced," Gonzalez said.
"They're just getting too technical with this stuff."

A block away, Bertha Olmos was confused by the rules. She recently moved
from Orange County, Calif., where the recycling rules are different. She
didn't get an educational brochure until months after she moved to Fort

"This stuff, plastic bags from the supermarket, they were recyclable," in
California, she said.

Boerner said residents are slowly getting the message. Also, those residents
who don't like the rules can simply buy a larger trash can and not
participate in the recycling program.

"The city of Fort Worth is not trying to create a system where we want to
fine people," he said. "The bottom line is, we've got to be smarter about
how we manage everything in our lives: water, electricity and garbage."


Cans and Can'ts

City officials have been working for three years to educate residents about

Items that can be recycled

Paper (paper clips and staples are OK)

Advertising circulars

Carbonless paper

Cardboard -- cereal boxes (liners removed), soda and beer carry cartons,
dry-goods packaging, corrugated cardboard, paper-towel and toilet-paper
rolls. Large boxes must be broken down or cut to fit in the cart.


Envelopes -- with or without windows

Junk mail



Office paper -- file folders, letterhead, sticky notes, printer paper,
calendars, school papers

Paperback books

Paper bags

Phone books

Metals (Please rinse. Labels can be left on)

Aluminum drink cans -- do not flatten

Aluminum baking tins -- clean

Steel or tin food cans and lids

Empty aerosol cans -- with spray nozzle; remove plastic lid unless part of
the can

Steel paint cans -- must be empty and dry; a thin skin of dry paint on
bottom and sides is OK; remove lid and recycle

Glass and ceramics (Please rinse. Labels can be left on. All colors are

Bottles and jars -- remove metal and plastic lids




Mirrors -- must fit inside cart with lid closed

Windowpanes -- no auto glass

Plastics (Please rinse. All colors are accepted.)

Bottles, cups and jars -- with No. 1 through No. 7 recycling symbols on
bottom of container; remove caps and lids

Food trays, tubs and bowls -- with No. 1 through No. 7 recycling symbols on
bottom of container

Plastic eating utensils

Items that can't be recycled

Household trash

Aluminum foil

Auto glass

Clothing or bedding

Drink boxes and straws

Garden hoses

Gift wrap and greeting cards

Hangers (plastic or metal)

Hardback books

Light bulbs

Medical waste (including syringes, lancets, IV bags and tubing, and

Paper milk and juice cartons

Paper that comes into contact with moist food, including pizza boxes, some
frozen food containers and waxed drinking cups

Plastic containers that held hazardous materials such as gasoline, motor
oil, paint, pesticide or weedkiller

Plastic bags, including grocery sacks, dry-cleaner bags, newspaper wrappers,

Styrofoam cups, food containers, packing "peanuts"


Waxed paper and waxed food containers

Yard trimmings

SOURCE: City of Fort Worth


Mike Lee, (817) 390-7539 mikelee@no.address

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